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Monday, August 27, 2007

FSU's 'buckypaper' research recognized with nanotechnology award

A remarkable new material that has shown promise in a variety of applications, ranging from lightning strike protection and electromagnetic-interference shielding to the design of next-generation aircraft and computer displays, is bringing international attention to its Florida State University developers.

Ben Wang

Researchers with FSU's High-Performance Materials Institute recently were recognized for their work with engineered carbon nanotube and nanofiber buckypapers, which were named one of the most innovative nanotechnologies of 2007 by the editors of R&D Magazine and the Micro/Nano Newsletter.

"We present the 25 best micro- and nanotechnologies of the year," the publications stated in introducing the award recipients. "These products, processes and innovations are groundbreaking technologies that are likely to have a large impact on their specific industries and society."

"Many organizations are doing some outstanding work in nanotechnology," said Ben Wang, research director of the High-Performance Materials Institute and a professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering at the Florida A&M University-Florida State University College of Engineering. "We are honored to have our research recognized among the top 25 in this revolutionary field."

Already, the technology is being evaluated for existing and new products. Leading companies such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing are considering using buckypapers in aircraft structures.

Wang envisions other commercial applications for the technology in the near future.

"Carbon nanotube and nanofiber buckypapers soon will provide lightweight thermal conductivity to dissipate heat in laptop computers," he said. "They also will provide electromagnetic-interference shielding in computers and aircraft; offer lightning-strike protection in composite structures such as aircraft or large windmill blades; enhance the strength of composite structures; and be used for embedding sensors in composite materials."

Farther down the road, Wang foresees applications such as using buckypaper in producing morphing structures and in providing backlight sources for laptops.

Buckypaper is made from carbon nanotubes-amazingly strong fibers about 1/50,000th the diameter of a human hair that were first developed in the early 1990s. It owes its name to Buckminsterfullerene, or Carbon 60-a type of carbon molecule whose powerful atomic bonds make it twice as hard as a diamond. Sir Harold Kroto, now the Francis Eppes Professor of Chemistry at FSU, and two colleagues shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their discovery of Buckminsterfullerene, whose molecules were nicknamed "buckyballs" for their spherical shape. Their discovery has led to a revolution in the fields of chemistry and materials science--and directly contributed to the development of buckypaper.

In describing FSU's entry, the Micro/Nano awards stated that "these materials are macroscopic or continuous thin films or membranes comprised of randomly oriented and magnetically aligned CNTs (carbon nanotubes) and nanofibers. These buckypapers combine the advantages of large dimensions, superior electronic conductivity, nanotube alignment, and continuous production."

Read about all of the "2007 Micro/Nano 25 Award Winners" at To learn more about FSU's High-Performance Materials Institute, visit

More about "buckypaper"

Buckypaper is a thin sheet made from an aggregate of carbon nanotubes. Originally, it was fabricated as a way to handle carbon nanotubes. Currently, it is being studied and developed into applications by several research groups and companies around the world, including Dr. Ben Wang from the Florida State University.

The material shows promise as a building material for aerospace vehicles, body armor and next-generation electronics and displays.

Buckypaper is a macroscopic aggregate of carbon nanotubes, or "buckytubes". It owes its name to buckminsterfullerene, the 60 carbon fullerene (an allotrope of carbon with similar bonding that is sometimes referred to as a "Buckyball" in honor of R. Buckminster Fuller). Richard Smalley, Sir Harold Kroto, and Robert Curl shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their discovery of buckminsterfullerene. Their discoveries and subsequent work with carbon nanotubes led to a revolution in the fields of chemistry and materials science.

Among the possible uses for buckypaper that are being researched:

If exposed to an electric charge, buckypaper could be used to illuminate computer and television screens. It could be more energy-efficient, lighter, and could allow for a more uniform level of brightness than current cathode ray tube (CRT) and liquid crystal display (LCD) technology.
Since carbon nanotubes are one of the most thermally conductive materials known, buckypaper lends itself to the development of heat sinks that would allow computers and other electronic equipment to disperse heat more efficiently than is currently possible. This, in turn, could lead to even greater advances in electronic miniaturization.
Because carbon nanotubes have an unusually high current-carrying capacity, a buckypaper film could be applied to the exteriors of airplanes. Lightning strikes then could flow around the plane and dissipate without causing damage.
Films also could protect electronic circuits and devices within airplanes from electromagnetic interference, which can damage equipment and alter settings. Similarly, such films could allow military aircraft to shield their electromagnetic "signatures", which can be detected via radar.
Buckypaper could act as a filter membrane to trap microparticles in air or fluid. Because the nanotubes in buckypaper are insoluble and can be functionalized with a variety of functional groups, they can selectively remove compounds or can act as a sensor.
Produced in high enough quantities and at an economically viable price, buckypaper composites could serve as an effective armor plating.
Buckypaper can be used to grow biological tissue, such as nerve cells. Buckypaper can be electrified or functionalized to encourage growth of specific types of cells.

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