Scientists are developing new paper composed of intertwined carbon nanotubes, it's called buckypaper and this new material can be up to 500 times stronger than steel, while being ten times lighter.
Ben Wang, director of Florida State's High-Performance Materials Institute, has been leading the effort to develop buckypaper. His work is based on earlier work by Robert Curl Jr. and Richard E. Smalley, Rice researchers and Nobel Prize winners, who discovered that nanotubes would stick together when dispersed in a suspension and then passed filter through a fine mesh to yield a film. This film would be refined to become buckypaper.
Professor Wang says the key to the paper's super strength is the extremely high surface area of nanotube molecules. He states, "If you take a gram of nanotubes, just one gram, and if you unfold every tube into a graphite sheet, you can cover about two-thirds of a football field."
Nanotubes have been used in limited quantity as a strengthener tennis racket and bicycle epoxies, but these efforts have used the tubes in a powder form. They also only use 1 to 5 percent nanotubes, where buckypaper uses nearly 50 percent nanotubes. Thus it’s more useful, but also more expensive.
The researchers have already created buckypaper half as strong as the best existing composite material, known as IM7, and expect to have a version of buckypaper as strong as IM7 by the year's end. IM7 itself is significantly stronger than steel. Professor Wang describes, "By the end of next year we should have a buckypaper composite as strong as IM7, and it's 35 percent lighter."
More info at DailyTech. This new material may be used in the future to build entire airplanes, cars, and military-grade armor plating.