Don’t look now, but the commercial jetliner you’ve just boarded is made out of paper. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe.
This is no ordinary paper, but thin layers of composite material strengthened with carbon nano-fibers to be stronger than steel, and as light as silk.
Almost defying logic, the thinnest carbon structures possible, mere atoms thick, have amazing flexibility and strength for their weight. Known since their discovery decades ago as ‘buckyballs’ and ‘nanotubes’ these peculiar molecules have been integrated with composite compounds to create something stronger than steel, lighter than aluminum, and thinner than paper.
Bonding thousands of these ultra-thin sheets together has created the ultimate light-weight super-strong material for aircraft skins and automobile panels. What’s more, ‘bucky-paper’ also conducts away static electricity and disperses surface heat.
But the biggest benefit of all is the cost saving for the traveler. Lighter materials mean lower vehicle weights, higher payloads and lower fuel consumption.
Even with today’s synthetic fuels and advanced engines, efficiency is the key to market success, which is why the new generation of ‘paper airplanes’ will soon dominate the skies.