Scientists at Florida State University have taken paper down to the nano-scale. By doing so, they’ve created a form of paper, called buckypaper, that is 10 times lighter and 500 times stronger than steel. It is made from carbon nanotubes and could revolutionize the auto and aviation industries. Imagine a car or plane that is incredibly light and incredibly strong. It would require much less energy to propel, at least increasing fuel efficiency and at best, making electric and solar-powered vehicles more feasible.
The futuristic technology involves tiny carbon nanotubes that are 50,000 times thinner than a human hair. Extremely flexible, they conduct electricity and disperse heat quickly. If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of such an amazing material, which incidentally, has been in the works for 20 years, it has everything to do with cost. Buckypaper is prohibitively expensive to manufacture. Currently, it is used very sparingly in tennis rackets and bicycles, but new cost reductions have Florida State researchers excited.
Scientists believe they’ve made key advancements toward making buckypaper stronger and simpler to manufacture. Among other tactics, magnets were used to strengthen the alignment of the nanotubes and their surface was textured to improve bonding. If researchers continue to succeed on their path to a stronger and cheaper product, it seems likely that the car of the future could be made from paper.