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The Future of Buckypaper

Posted by Matthew Greensmith at 9:28 AM on October 19, 2008

I may have reported on this before several months back, I’m not sure, but there have been some new advances in the potential manufacturing process for buckypaper.

Silly name for a product, but it has great potential for the future of planes, automobiles, and possibly even home construction. Buckypaper is 10 times lighter, but as much as 500 times stronger than steel. It is a composite product, but unlike other composites, it can conduct electricity like copper or silicon and disperses heat like steel or brass. It’s potential is unlimited, but only if the manufacture of it can be developed so that it is cost-effective and less time-intensive.

Buckypaper looks like ordinary carbon paper, but is actually created from tube-shaped carbon molecules 50,000 times thinner than a human hair. Because of its construction and conductivity, it can be used to lighten automobiles and airplanes, replace some functional components of computers and televisions, and even be used in the development of lower-cost solar options.

Researchers at Florida’s Rice University are working on revolutionary manufacturing techniques that may make the production of buckypaper much more cost-effective, as well as being less time-intensive. This new research is a major breakthrough on a project that has been taking shape over the last 15 years.

And if the name sounds funny, those that are science geeks like me will know right away that Buckminster Fuller had something to do with this. The discovery of “buckyballs” [buckminsterfullerene], soccer-ball-shaped molecules produced during an experiment with carbon, led to the development of buckypaper. Ah, the visionary and futurist Buckminster Fuller. He lives on!

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