Researchers at MIT have created a spongy new super-material, which is one of the strongest lightweight materials known to man. This amazing material is lighter than the flimsiest plastic yet stronger than steel.
Graphene in its two-dimensional (2D) form is thought to be the strongest of all known materials. Although 2D materials are very strong, due to their thinness, they are not practical for making 3D materials. Researchers have explored the ways in which they can translate that two-dimensional strength into useful three-dimensional materials.
Scientists achieved this by compressing and fusing together small flakes of graphene (a two-dimensional form of carbon) into a vast, cobwebby network. The material formed not only has graphene’s strength, but it also has the porous property of graphene.
The new material with its distinct geometry has a density of just five percent and the strength of about ten times that of steel.
MIT reports: “The new findings show that the crucial aspect of the new 3-D forms has more to do with their unusual geometrical configuration than with the material itself, which suggests that similar strong, lightweight materials could be made from a variety of materials by creating similar geometric features.”
Markus Buehler, head of MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), and the McAfee Professor of Engineering, said, “You can replace the material itself with anything. The geometry is the dominant factor. It’s something that has the potential to transfer to many things.”