Flying in a plane made of a material called 'buckypaper' may not seem too appealing at first, but this new type of carbon nanotube may be the future of lightweight, high strength composite. Discovered accidentally while trying to create the same conditions that exist in a star, buckypaper is far from reaching its potential, but what a potential it is.
The tube-shaped variation of the buckminsterfullerene molecule is dispersed in liquid and then filtered through a fine mesh, creating a very thin but very powerful film, now called buckypaper. The peculiarly shaped molecule has a huge surface area, leading to incredible strength: when stacked to become a composite, it can be 10 times lighter but possibly 500 times stronger than steel, but conducts and disperses heat like copper. It's far from being commercially available, but its uses may be as far-ranging as aviation, computers, batteries, military stealth armour, and fuel cells. Specifically mentioned is the possibility that it might dissipate heat from crotch-burning laptops, so fingers crossed it gets here sooner than later. [AP]