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October 14, 1998

Phil West
Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
(Phone 281-483-9236)

Lia Unrau
Rice University, Houston, TX
(Phone 713-831-4793)

Release: J98-47

Big Ideas From Tiny Fibers: NASA and Rice Team Up

Research on new materials and products using fullerene fibers -- carbon fiber tubular structures, potentially 30 to 100 times stronger than steel but one-sixth its weight -- is planned by a team at NASA and Rice University.

NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin and Rice University President Malcolm Gillis are to sign a statement of collaboration outlining the proposed agreement in a ceremony at Rice on Thursday, October 15, 1998. The event is open to members of the news media.

Fullerene fibers are so small they can only be seen with the most powerful microscopes. They have a number of desirable qualities, including potential tensile strength higher than any known fiber and electrical conductivity similar to metals. Possible applications include composite materials with extraordinary strength, smaller semi-conductors, mechanical systems with atomic-scale dimensions, chemical sensors, and power and hydrogen storage devices.

The proposed Rice-NASA effort will establish collaboration in research and applications for these tiny fibers. Dr. Richard Smalley, who received the Nobel Prize in 1996 for his discovery of fullerenes, will lead the Rice participation. Smalley is also director of Rice's Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, which studies structures on the scale of a billionth of a meter. The effort will combine the expertise of NASA and a pioneering research group at Rice University to establish a world-class research team in this field.

The signing event will take place at 10:00 a.m. Central time in Lovett Hall on the Rice Campus and is open to the media. Lovett Hall is located inside Entrances 1 and 2 off of Main Street. Media interested in attending can begin setting up at 8 a.m. and should contact Lia Unrau, science editor in the Rice University Media Relations Office, at (713) 831-4793, for further details.

 

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