Monday, October 20, 2008

The Promise of Buckypaper

Well, it’s official. Carbon nanotubes will one day rule the world. These little cylinders of carbon molecules can be used to make materials that are lighter, stronger, and sexier than just about anything else we have. The central column of Japan’s proposed space elevator will most likely be built from carbon nanotube ribbon, and 9/11 conspiracy theorists are already working on theories about how planes could never bring down a building made of carbon nanotubes. (“Have you ever seen carbon nanotubes melt? I don’t think so! Building Seven!”) Now, researchers at Florida State University have successfully created “buckypaper”, a sheet of thin material made from carbon nanotubes that when layered in a composite is lighter and stronger than steel. It also dissipates heat, yet it’s still an excellent conductor of electricity. It’s not as strong as it could be right now, but scientists are hoping to remedy that within a year or so. I don’t know what kind of profit sharing they have for research assistants at FSU, but I’m thinking a lot of these people will soon be flying around in their own private jets. Which, obviously, will be made of carbon nanotubes. More details (including video!) here.

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