Gallery: Cars of the Future may be Made of Super-Strong Buckypaper


What is stronger than steel and stands to revolutionize our built environment? Paper! Or rather, buckypaper to be more precise. Buckypaper is a material composed of carbon nanotubes that is 10 times lighter and over 500 times stronger than steel. While the miraculous material used to be prohibitively expensive and hard to make, scientists from Florida State University believe that they have made several key developments that will allow them to efficiently manufacture it for a variety of applications including airplanes and vehicles.

Composed from tube-shaped carbon molecules 50,000 times thinner than a human hair, buckypaper displays an incredible set of physical properties. It is extremely flexible, light, and strong, plus it conducts electricity and disperses heat quickly. Currently it is only used in minute quantities in tennis rackets and bicycles because it is very expensive and difficult to manufacture in large quantities.

Researchers at Florida State University have been developing methods to increase the strength of buckypaper and streamline its manufacturing process. These techniques include the use of magnets to strengthen the alignment of the carbon nanotubes, and texturizing the surface of the nanotubes that improve their bonding strength.

The commercialization of buckypaper holds incredible promise for stronger, lighter, and more efficient vehicles, since one of the simplest ways to make a vehicle more energy efficient is to reduce the its weight. The material may also be used to shield airplanes from magnetic interference and lightning strikes, to build electronic parts such as super capacitors and batteries, and to dissipate heat in laptops.

+ Florida State University

Via Associated Press

Photo Credit: Carbon Nano Tubes by Riccardo Signorelli/MIT


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1 Comment

  1. Steve N. Lee October 22, 2008 at 3:04 am

    So, did Gene Roddenbury get it wrong? Will the Starship Enterprise be little more than a souped-up paper aeroplane?

    This sounds to be quite an amazing material. Conducts electricity, shielding capabalities, batteries, cars… Is there anything it can’t do?

    I’d like to know a little more about the manufacturing process, to see how much greener it is than steel. And while it might be stronger, how about its lifecycle – does it last as long, wear as well, etc?

    Also, there’s no mention of how easy it is to recycle.

    This does sound an intriguing concept, not least because if vehicles are made of this stuff then because it’s so much lighter than steel, it will mean vast improvements in fuel efficiency, so will have great benefits for the environment.

    All in all, an interesting article. It’s something I’ll be keen to read up on.

    Steve N. Lee
    author of eco-blog
    and suspense thriller ‘What if…?’

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