Click Here to Subscribe For FREE SMS Alerts on Disaster Awareness

Refresher Training of CERT by FOCUS

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cars and aircraft out of paper?

Ten times lighter, but 500 times stronger than steel, buckypaper is envisioned as the wondrous new material for light aircraft and cars, more powerful computers, and even improved TV screens...

 It's called 'buckypaper' and looks a lot like ordinary carbon paper, but don't be fooled by the cute name or flimsy appearance. It could revolutionise the way everything from TVs to airplanes are made.
Buckypaper is 10 times lighter, but potentially 500 times stronger than steel when sheets of it are stacked and pressed together to form a composite. Unlike conventional composite materials, though, it conducts electricity like copper or silicon and disperses heat like steel or brass.
Buckypaper is a derivative of the ultra-tiny cylinders known as carbon nanotubes – tube-shaped carbon molecules 50,000 times thinner than a human hair.
Due to its unique properties, it is envisioned as the material of choice for future aircraft and automobiles, computers, hi-tech TV screens and many other products.
"All those things are what a lot of people in nanotechnology have been working toward as sort of Holy Grails," said Wade Adams, a scientist at US' Rice University.
However, researchers at Florida State University say they have made important progress that may soon turn hype into reality.
So far, buckypaper can be made at only a fraction of its potential strength – in small quantities and at a high price. The Florida State researchers are developing manufacturing techniques that soon may make it competitive with the best composite materials now available.
"If this thing goes into production, this very well could be revolutionary technology for the
aerospace business," said Les Kramer, chief technologist for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, which is helping fund the Florida State research.
In 1985, British scientist Harry Kroto joined researchers at Rice University for an experiment to create the same conditions that exist in a star. They wanted to find out how stars – the source of all carbon in the universe – make the element that is a main building block of life.
    Everything went according to plan, with one exception.
    "There was an extra character that turned up totally unexpected," recalled Kroto, now at Florida State University.
    The surprise guest was a molecule with 60 carbon atoms shaped like a soccer ball.
    To Kroto, it also looked like the geodesic domes promoted by Buckminster Fuller, an architect, inventor and futurist. That inspired Kroto to name the new molecule buckminsterfullerene, or buckyballs for short.
    For their discovery of the buckyball – the third form of pure carbon to be discovered after graphite and diamonds – Kroto and his Rice colleagues, Robert Curl Jr and Richard E Smalley, were awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1996.
    Separately, Japanese physicist Sumio Iijima developed a tube-shaped variation while doing research at US' Arizona State University.
    Researchers at Richard Smalley's laboratory then inadvertently found that the tubes would stick together when disbursed in a liquid suspension and filtered through a fine mesh, producing a thin film – buckypaper.
    So far, the Florida State institute has been able to produce buckypaper with half the strength of the best existing composite material, known as IM7. Wang expects to close the gap quickly.

    "By the end of next year we should have a buckypaper composite as strong as IM7, and it's 35 per cent lighter," Wang said.
    Buckypaper now is being made only in the laboratory, but Florida State is in the early stages of spinning out a company to make commercial buckypaper.
Wang believes buckypaper's first uses will be for electromagnetic interference shielding and lightning-strike protection on aircraft.
    "Electrical circuits and even natural causes such as the sun's activity can interfere with radios and other electronic gear. Buckypaper provides up to four times the shielding specified by the aircraft industry," Wang said.
    Typically, conventional composite materials have a copper mesh added for lightning protection. Replacing copper with buckypaper would save weight and fuel.
    Other near-term uses would be as electrodes for fuel cells, super capacitors and batteries, Wang said.
    Next in line, buckypaper could be a more efficient and lighter replacement for graphite sheets used in laptop computers to dissipate heat.
    The long-range goal is to build planes, automobiles and other things with buckypaper composites. The US military also is looking at it for use in armour plating and stealth technology.
    "Our plan is perhaps in the next 12 months we'll begin maybe to have some commercial products," Wang said. "Nanotubes obviously are no longer just lab wonders. They have real world potential. It's real." AP

TOP RIGHT: Ben Wang and his team from Florida State University are developing techniques that may soon make buckypaper (top) competitive with the best composite materials available today. On his computer screen, is a microscopic view of buckypaper


Popular Posts

Slide Presentation


Enter a Youtube URL to download:

Powered by KeepHD.com
Custom Search

Daily Green News


blogger templates | Make Money Online