When sheets of buckypaper are stacked together to form a composite structure, it can transform into one of the strongest materials known to science.
Whatever Happened to the Aerospace Material of Tomorrow?
The carbon nanotube sheet shows tantalizing properties for the aerospace industry. Research at HTMI aims to hold it to its promise
Michael C. Anderson Senior Editor
t’s real, it’s as good as you’ve heard, and it’s coming soon—if not quite yet. What we’re talking about is the aerospace material of tomorrow, carbon nanotube (CNT) sheets with awe-inspiring properties and the less-than-awe-inspiring name of “buckypaper.” That name comes from the discovery by Robert Curl, Harold Kroto and Richard Smalley in 1985 of a molecule made up of 60 carbon atoms shaped like a soccer ball. To Kroto, it also looked like the geodesic domes promoted by architect and futurist Buckminster Fuller and so the C60
named buckminsterfullerene, or “buckyball” for short. Curl, Kroto and Smalley were awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their work, and the development of buckypa- per is just one outgrowth of their discovery.