Mainland High School
Operation WingChange: ISTF #02-0433









[20 Feb 2003] Nanotechnology is a classification of technology on a vary small scale. It includes technologies that allow us to study a single cell, etch the encyclopedia on the head of a pin, and create an extremely complex crystal lattices. QUASAM is a material that utilizes nanotechnology in it's creation. The nanotechnologies used position the atoms of the QUASAM family into a specific arrangements that do not occur naturally in nature. QUASAM-like materials that occur naturally are diamonds and graphite.

QUASAM is a general term for many carbon forms that are virtually impossible to find in nature. QUASAM was discovered in 1995-1996 by Atomic-Scale Design, Inc. and Dr. Benjamin Dorfman and has US patents No. 6,080,470. This family of compounds generally take and combine many features of other carbon solids, such as diamond and graphite. Different QUASAM materials have a wide range of properties, such as an extremely wide range of electrical conductivity and flexibility. They have a very low density (on the order of 1.7 g/cm3) making them ideal for use in aviation. Furthermore, they are very ecologically sound, being based on carbon, and much less polluting than metal structures or ceramics.

QUASAM more specifically is a mixture of various forms of solid carbon. In nature, solid carbon forms three forms, "chains" as seen in polymers such as plastics, "planes" such as graphite, and "tetrahedrons" such as diamond. The type it is is determined by the hybridization of the carbon. Plastic carbon is hybridized sp, graphite is hybridized sp2, and diamond is hybridized sp3. QUASAM is primarily composed of carbons that are hybridized sp3/sp2.

The following picture shows an example of QUASAM as a free-standing material.

[4 Feb 2003] Dr. Dorfman hypothesized on methods of incorporating QUASAM into our project.

If your aircraft flies in the year 2004:

QUASAM may be applied as the multifunctional protective coatings, or almost literally skin providing the wings with:

  • Ice/water-repealing features.
  • Better aerodynamic quality.
  • Anti-corrosion protection.
  • Anti-erosion protection.
  • Essentially improved crack-resistance and fatigue characteristics.
  • Easy maintenance.

If your aircraft flies in 2008, when the authors of this student projects are already professional designers:

QUASAM may be applied as the smart skin for the entire body of aircraft, including wings and fuselage. It will provide the exterior of aircraft, and first of all the wings with all those mentioned features PLUS the self monitoring, i.e. measurement and mapping of:

  • Stress.
  • Over-icing and/or over-dewing.
  • Surface temperature including self-monitoring and active control (self-heating) of the key areas.
  • It may be equally applied for both the rigid and flexible components of your wings.
If your aircraft flies in 2012:

QUASAM may be used as the major construction material for the wings, and possibly for the entire craft, with the density not exceeding magnesium, modules in the range of steel, surface hardness exceeding sapphire, and corrosion and chemical resistance superior to gold.

From the point of your major approach:

Because the structural material is so lightweight, the entire craft would be also lighter, and the less amount of the fuel would enhance this advantage. Consequently, the forces attacking the wings would be essentially lower, and the flexibility would be easier achievable, including the requirements to the actuators.

[12 Jan 2003] QUASAM may perform almost all the necessary components of the wing - providing them with the density of the birdís wing combined with the strength of the steel.

This information is courtesy of Dr. Benjamin Dorfman through email correspondence.


Image courtesy of Delft Aerospace

Currently aluminum is the most commonly used material on airplanes. Aluminum sheets, usually one millimeter thick is sheeted over the airframe. Although aluminum is light and durable, glare has additional advantages. Glare is composed first of a thin layer of aluminum, then a thin layer of strong fiberglass, and then another layer of aluminum. Each layer is about one millimeter thick. These aluminum and fiber-reinforced plastic composites, were first developed in the 1970s. Bonded materials can trace their history back to early bonded wood and bonded metal aircraft structures.

Glare has more protection in the event of a fire, is more resistant to damage, and is less sensitive to metal fatigue. The U.S. Air Force used GLARE on the freight door for the recent C-17 while the new airbus AX33 is considering constructing the entire aircraft out of GLARE.

Carbon fiber

Image courtesy of Super StreetCarbon fiber is a synthetic fiber that results from the heating, oxidizing, and carbonizing of polyacrylonitrile polymer fibers. It is used in the production of high performance aircraft. A polymer is a giant molecule made up of repeating units, long connecting chains of carbon molecules. To turn this polymer molecule into a fiber, it is subjected to extreme heat and pressure. The discovery of carbon fiber dates back to the late 1800s when Thomas Edison was testing thousands of different materials to use as a filament in the lightbulb. Fibers can also be manufactured as carbon paper which is very effective and durable as a superior filtration element.

The demand for carbon fiber grew from the aerospace industry’s need in the ’60s for building materials that were lighter and stronger than steel or aluminum and could facilitate the design of lighter weight, higher performance aircraft, to carry larger payloads while using less fuel. 


Aluminum was originally used to create almost all of the plane except the major supports which were made of steel. When jet engines were introduced the steel supports were replaced by titanium because it worked well against the intense heat created form the engines. Advanced composites, i.e. graphite and boron filaments in a cured epoxy matrix have the added advantage that they are lightweight and extremely durable.

Image courtesy of Career Resource Center


Dr. Benjamin Dorfman
  email correspondence [Jan 15, 2003; Feb 4, 2003; Feb 20, 2003]
Super Street Online
Materials Science & Engineering Career Resource Center
About Network: Plastics and Composites
Delft Aerospace

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