Scribal Terror has a link to this article in Science Daily about buckypaper. I first heard about buckypaper a few years ago, but in a much different (and more significant) context.
Though it is not mentioned in the article, one of the potential uses for buckypaper that I heard discussed in those days was to make buckybooks (sorry, I have no link -- I heard this long ago). The idea, as I remember it, was to have paper made entirely of buckyballs that were dark on one side and light on the other. The "off" setting for the balls would be for the light side to be facing out. When current was run through the buckyballs, they would flip over so that the dark side was showing. By selectively turning some on and turning some off, you could create writing on the page (much as a marquee sign does by turning lights on and off).
The article talks about a lot of less important uses, like body armor, shielding airplanes from lightning strikes, etc. While all those things are nice, none of them will change the world. Buckypaper has the potential to change the world as significantly as Gutenberg's printing press.
Until now, electronic books have not really taken off. We are willing to access short texts on the internet, but longer texts we like in book form. The book has dominated literacy since it superceded the scroll, and survived through both manuscript culture and print culture. The computer screen does not have the potential to supercede the book because it is too difficult to carry around and is uncomfortable on the eyes and hands.
Buckypaper could be what the e-book has been waiting for. Imagine you hold in your hands a book. It looks like a normal book, except perhaps there is a thin battery and USB port in the binding. When you open the book, you see that the pages are blank. Just page after page of nothing.
Now, imagine you go online and download a novel onto a jump drive. You insert the drive into the USB port, upload the novel -- and suddenly the words appear on the page. Now you have a novel in a comfortable, portable form.
But wait -- you are finished with that novel ... what do you do? Instead of putting it on the shelf, you would simple store the file on your personal computer and upload a different novel into your buckybook. In other words, you could store your entire personal library on your keychain, and have just one or two tabula rasa books on your shelf. The cost of printing becomes nil. Books with short runs are no longer more expensive than mass market paperbacks (indeed, pricing would probably be inverted). Bibles and other censored texts could be stored in files and wiped from the buckybook before any censoring officials saw them. It would also be possible for your book -- that sheaf of papers you have in your hand -- to become truly interactive, with links like a web page.
Of course, buckybooks would be expensive at first, but I would think that a cost comparable to a laptop computer, say a few thousand dollars, would be marketable. Universities could require all students to use them and practically eliminate print books. If your local public library didn't have a book -- why not download it from the Library of Congress? Even rare print books could be scanned and turned into cheap facsimile editions, allowing for early training in manuscript paleography to take place without excessive cost or the risk of damage to manuscripts.
Sure, body armor and airplane covering is fine, but I prefer applications that change the world.