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Buckypaper Nanotechnology is one of the tending fields of research nowadays. It is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale, which refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up. Although the term nanotechnology is somewhat new to our ears, it began in the 80’s, when machines on the molecular level can be built, hence, a technological revolution (Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, 2008). There are a lot of applications of nanotechnology aside from machines and electronics as well as in food processing.


The most famous breakthrough in nanotechnology has been recognized in the past decade, where buckypaper took the materials industry by storm. Buckypaper was first discovered by Nobel Laureates Bob Curl, Harry Kroto, and Richard Smalley. It is a thin film formed using carbon nanotubes or fibers, which can be manipulated in order to enhance specific properties such as electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radiation shielding, strength, electroconductivity, and heat dissipation.

It can be used in heatsinks, thermal management, electrodes, ultra high-strength structures, personal protective equipment, medical devices, and flat panel displays. Although buckypaper is the strongest fiber known to man as of today as it is 250 times stronger than steel but 10 times lighter, its electroconductivity is comparable with copper and silicon, and its thermal conductivity is higher than diamond, there are disadvantages in the ultilization of this material in terms of price, handling, and processing.



Have you heard of a substance which is ten times lighter but is 250 times stronger than steel? It may seem possible to exist only in science fiction stories. But in reality, we already have an extraordinary material like this, the buckypaper. Buckypaper is a macroscopic aggregate of carbon nanotubes (CNT), or "buckytubes". British scientist Harry Kroto and Rice University scientists started the study on buckypaper, attempting to create the conditions found in a star when it forms elemental carbon. Its etymology was drawn from buckminsterfullerene, the 60 carbon fullerene, an allotrope of carbon with similar bonding, referred to as a "Buckyball" in honor of R. Buckminster Fuller. Ben Wang, a professor of industrial engineering at the Florida A&M University-FSU College of Engineering, is known as a pioneer of nano-materialscience. And his research focuses on buckypaper which is manufactured from compressed singlewalled, multi-walled carbon nanotubes or fibers. And because of that, buckypaper is extremely thin with width approximately 25 microns and lightweight with areal density of 0.0705 oz/ft²). Some properties of the buckypaper include thermal and electrical conductivity;high mechanical strength and modulus; high strain rate; highly efficient field emission and self-actuation. Today, numerous studies are being done to maximize the potential of buckypaper. It has a wide range of possible application from cell studies in biology to fire protection and aerotechnology.


HISTORY Everything in this world has a story, everything – every person, every animal, every object; they all have tales ofhow they came to be. These stories help you understand them better if not fully. The buckypaper is no exception;it has its own interesting story that is worth looking into. To understand the history of buckypaper, we should first look at the story of its basic unit, the buckyballs. Buckyballs were speculated to exist as early as 1970 in addi-tion to several variants of carbon such as diamond and graphite. (Herndon & Fernandezi, 2012) However, it wasin 1985 when its existence was actually demonstrated; Kroto, Curl, and Smalley of Rice University sought to simulate the conditions in stars and see how they produce carbon. In the midst of this experiment, they were also able to discover the carbon-60 fullerene, a molecule with 60 carbon atoms. It was called buckminsterfullerene (“buckyballs”) because it also appeared like the geodesic dome promoted by the architect,

Buckminster Fuller. (Kaczor, 2008) This discovery, which won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, led to the production ofcarbon nanotubes. By 1991, the first carbon nanotubes (CNT) were synthesized by Sumio Iijima of NEC Laboratories in Japan. (Wood, 2006) After that revolutionary event, scientists became excited and began to think up of its applications because “here was a new material, never before seen, that promised to bring nanotechnology to the real world.” (Wood, 2006) However, CNT faced two challenges: they were expensive to produce and difficult to manipulate. Nevertheless, “As it turns out, this product [buckypaper] turns one of the molecule’s key disadvantages into an advantage.” (Wood, 2006) One of the main applications of carbon nanotubes was buckypaper. “CNT sheets or film (buckypaper) was first produced by Smalley et al in 1998, when suspensions of functionalized CNTs were vacuum dried on membranes.” (Herndon & Fernandezi, 2012) The buckypaper thin film was made when CNT would be dispersed in a liquid suspension and then filtered through fine mesh. (Kaczor, 2008) “The tubes’ tendency to stick to each other—usually considered a problem—in this case allowed the nanotubes to form a thin film. The result was a small disk made entirely of nanotubes.” (Wood, 2006) In fact, buckypaper is so strong because of each nanotube’s high surface area. One gram of nanotubes can cover twothirds of a football field! (Kaczor, 2008. That was the birth of the buckypaper and scientists have been improving and working out its applications ever since.


According to a research for the past five years at the Florida Advanced Center for Composite Technologies on the further development of buckypaper, concerning the transportation sector, buckypaper might soon enable the manufacturing of stronger and lighter aircraft with larger payloads and greater fuel efficiency. Moreover, in the more distant future, lighter cars with better fuel efficiency. (TFOT, 2013) Various experiments have also shown that carbon nanotubes can act as actuators, mechanisms with the ability to turn electrical energy to mechanical energy. This paved the way for artificial muscles made of buckypapers.

FUTURE OF BUCKYPAPER Buckypaper has erected new pedestals for breakthroughs in different fields. Perhaps, what it will be most known for in the future is its application in biomedical engineering and aeronautics. With its at-par-with-silicon conducting capacity and heat dispersion, aircrafts can now take advantage of lightning’s electrical chargeto flow around them and dissipate it without causing damage. Plus, the flowing electrical charge can also be used to power other components of the plane; and being lighter than steel tenfold, aircrafts curb their energy usage.

Buckypapers operate as electrodes in an electrochemical cell, and because of the difference in the injected charge between two sheets of buckypaper, electrolyte ions form a double layer; both sides expand, but one side expands more than the other based on the applied potential voltage. In addition, buckypapers operate on the same level or better than actual human muscles. Today, buckypaper is still at its infancy. Researchers are still optimizing its manufacturing process; until they have perfected their methods, buckypaper will be sold in small bundles. However, due to its promising applications in various areas— warfare, aeronautics, medicine, sports, etc., firms and institutions like the US military have been funnelingmoney into the research. And it’s this which keeps the wheels of the research running, catalyzing the improvement of buckypaper and unfolding new horizons for us humans. The future of buckypaper, indeed, has never been as bright as before.


Because of the buckypaper’s amazing properties, it has a wide range of possible applications: 1. It could be used in the field of transportation as a new type of material for cars, airplanes and ships. 2. When used for these forms of transportation, energy efficiency could be maximized since buckypaper is a very light material and by reducing the weight of the car, less energy is also used.


3. It could also help to shield airplanes from the damage of lightning. 4. Due to its strength, buckypaper could also be used for safety & military tools suchas vests, goggles, helmets and armored vehicles and sports equipment like badminton rackets and golf clubs.



10 times lighter than steel but 250 times stronger One of the most thermally conductive materials known

buckypaper is a thin sheet made from mass of carbon nanotubes

its fiber is about 1/50,000th the diameter of human hair Unusually high currentcarrying capacity

SOME POSSIBLE USES OF BUCKYPAPER could be used to illuminate computer and TV screens. It would be more energy efficient and much lighter.

disperses heat from electronics more efficiently.


could protect airplanes from electromagnetic interference could serve as an effective armor plating encourage growth of specific types of cells


REFERENCES: What is Buckypaper? "Future planes, cars may be made of `buckypaper'". Yahoo! Tech News. 2008-10-17. Retrieved 2014-03-16. The Future of Buckypaper Karthik Mayilvahanan, 2013. Carbon Nanotubes in Buckypaper: Synthesis, Structure, and Applications in Artificial Muscles and Fire Retardancy. http://cosmos. .pdf Others; March 17, 2014. Images: (screenshots)

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Buckypaper Nanotechnology  

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