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"...a market economy is essentially a genetic algorithm for solving resource allocation problems..."
- Charles Stross

Paper Steel  
  Specially treated paper that forms material as hard as steel.  

When constructing machines that move through the air, the lightest possible materials are needed. As long as they are strong enough.

And now for the metal used by Robur in the construction of his aeronef--a name which can be exactly applied to the "Albatross." What was this material, so hard that the bowie-knife of Phil Evans could not scratch it, and Uncle Prudent could not explain its nature? Simply paper!

For some years this fabrication had been making considerable progress. Unsized paper, with the sheets impregnated with dextrin and starch and squeezed in hydraulic presses, will form a material as hard as steel. There are made of it pulleys, rails, and wagon-wheels, much more solid than metal wheels, and far lighter. And it was this lightness and solidity which Robur availed himself of in building his aerial locomotive. Everything--framework, hull, houses, cabins-- were made of straw-paper turned hard as metal by compression, and - what was not to be despised in an apparatus flying at great heights-- incombustible. The different parts of the engines and the screws were made of gelatinized fiber, which combined in sufficient degree flexibility with resistance. This material could be used in every form. It was insoluble in most gases. and liquids, acids or essences, to say nothing of its insulating properties, and it proved most valuable in the electric machinery of the "Albatross."

From Robur-the-Conqueror, by Jules Verne.
Published by Not Known in 1866
Additional resources -

Fascinated with the idea of superlight, but tough, materials? Check out the aptly named helio-beryllium, as well as inertron.

Thanks to Your Obedient Serpent for suggesting this item.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Robur-the-Conqueror
  More Ideas and Technology by Jules Verne
  Tech news articles related to Robur-the-Conqueror
  Tech news articles related to works by Jules Verne

Paper Steel-related news articles:
  - Nanopaper - Paper Tough As Steel
  - Graphene Paper 10x Stronger Than Steel

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