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What is buckypaper?

Buckypaper is a strong and lightweight substance manufactured from compressed carbon nanotubes, which are long, cylindrical carbon structures consisting of hexagonal graphite molecules attached at the edges.

A sheet of buckypaper looks like old-fashioned typewriter carbon paper but is much stronger than an equivalent mass of steel. When sheets of buckypaper are stacked and compressed, the resulting material is up to 500 times stronger than steel, at one-tenth of the weight. In this arrangement, the current-carrying capacity is remarkably high. Buckypaper also has excellent thermal conductivity and low optical reflectivity.

See a video about buckypaper.

Potential applications for buckypaper include:

  • Computer and television displays
  • Electrical shielding
  • Materials for building cars, airplanes and machinery
  • Protection against lightning
  • Protection against electromagnetic pulses (EMP)
  • Armor plating
  • Reinforcement of common structures
  • Electrodes for batteries, fuel cells and capacitors
  • Thermal heatsinks for electronic and computer equipment
  • Artificial limbs
  • Air and liquid filtration systems.

Much of the scientific research and development for buckypaper has taken place in the High Performance Materials Institute at Florida State University.

The carbon nanotube evolved from three-dimensional structures similar to the geodesic dome, which was originally conceived by the inventor R. Buckminster ("Bucky") Fuller. For this reason, nanotubes and materials made from them are often given names with "bucky-" prefixes.

Learn More About IT:
> Technology Review describes how buckypaper is made and offers ideas for its use.
> Don Wood discusses the history and promise of buckypaper technology.
> Frank Allen answers some frequently asked questions about buckypaper.

This was last updated in November 2008

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