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September 30, 1999

John Ira Petty
Johnson Space Center, TX
(281) 483-5111

Release: J99-41

Tiny High-Strength Fibers a Highlight at Inspection99

Fullerene fibers, too small to be seen with powerful optical microscopes but with huge prospects in research on new materials, will be among technologies showcased at NASA/Johnson Space Center’s Inspection99.

The event, Nov. 3 to 5, offers industry, business, community and education professionals a chance discover NASA technologies and processes that might be applied to the guest’s own activities. Designed to reach people outside the aerospace industry, I99 is free, but registration is required.

The fullerene fibers are microscopic tubular structures a billionth of a meter in diameter. Potentially 30 to 100 times stronger than steel but one-sixth its weight, they are the subject of research by a team of NASA and Rice University scientists under a cooperative research agreement signed in October 1998.

Fullerene fibers can be imaged only with powerful non-optical “probe” microscopes. The fibers’ qualities include tensile strength higher than any known fiber, electrical conductivity similar to metals and heat conductivity better than almost any other material.

Among possible applications are new aerospace materials of tremendous strength-to-weight ratios, composite materials with extraordinary properties, electronics with 10,000 times as many transistors on a chip than today’s circuits, mechanical systems with atomic-scale dimensions, new chemical sensors and revolutionary energy storage devices.

Dr. Richard Smalley, who received the Nobel Prize in 1996 for his discovery of fullerenes, leads Rice participation in the joint effort to develop the science and applications of fullerene fibers. He also is director of Rice's Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, which studies structures on the scale of a billionth of a meter.

Inspection99 guests can inspect a wide range of other technologies, tour Johnson Space Center’s unique facilities, and talk with scientists and engineers about technical challenges. The mission of the center is the expansion of a human presence in space through exploration and utilization, for the benefit of all.

People at the center work each day to expand the boundaries of human knowledge and capabilities to meet the formidable challenge of human space flight. The technologies they develop continue to find wide application throughout the private sector, in fields as diverse as energy, transportation, agriculture, medicine, communications and electronics.

Inspection98 last October drew a record 2,700 guests from 45 states and 21 foreign countries. Inspection99 will be the fourth in the growing and increasingly successful series of the free yearly meetings designed to bring the benefits of space technology down to Earth.

To register and for more information visit, phone (281) 244-1316, fax (281) 483-9193 or e-mail


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