Architect magazine has published an article on new material technologies, which features a nanomaterial that was recently made by Peter Yeadon. Blaine Brownell, author of the well-known Transmaterial books, wrote the essay. Brownell reports on how a thin sheet of carbon nanotubes, called Buckypaper, was synthesized at Peter’s firm in New York City. There is a video of the lab work available on the Decker Yeadon website.
To make the sheet, single walled carbon nanotubes were first dispersed in sodium dodecyl sulfate and deionized water. Because the 1–2 nanometer diameter nanotubes are hydrophobic, the sodium dodecyl sulfate was used as a surfactant that enabled the nanotubes to disperse well in water.
The solution containing the nanotubes was then poured into a vacuum filtration unit, which contained a microporous filtration membrane with 200 nanometer diameter pores. Because each nanotube was just over 20 µm long, the tubes collected on the surface of the membrane as the solution was drawn through its pores, like long noodles collecting on a sieve, leaving behind a “paper” mat that is less than 100 µm thick.
Although Decker Yeadon are the first architects to make Buckypaper, there has been a great deal of interest in the scientific community surrounding Buckypaper research. Like the carbon nanotubes it is made of, Buckypaper has a number of novel properties that could be advantageous for a variety of applications. It is strong, it can filter particles, it can conduct and disperse heat like metals, and it can conduct electricity.
Peter is hopeful that this new Buckypaper can be used as a thin, flexible electrode surface in an artificial muscle for architectural applications. The first prototype of the artificial muscle should be completed and demonstrated later this year, and is being partially funded by a RISD Professional Development Fund grant that he won.