Stainless steel? Don’t make us laugh! A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has just developed one of the strongest lightweight materials known to man, woman and, well, frankly every living creature on Earth. Formed by compressing and fusing flakes of graphene using a combination of heat and pressure, the resulting creation boasts a sponge-like configuration with just 5 percent density of steel — but 10 times its strength.
Based on all-around wonder material graphene, MIT’s new discovery is described this month in the journal Science Advances. The new 3D graphene material has a labyrinthine structure composed of a continuous surface of its 2D counterpart.
“The curvature of the surface in the 3D space is caused by distribution of pentagon and heptagon rings in [a] certain way, making the geometry feature different from planar 2D graphene, which is composed of carbon atoms that are arranged in hexagonal rings,” researcher Zhao Qin told Digital Trends.
The material was created in a lab at MIT using a high-resolution, multi-material 3D printer.
It’s not just strength that’s exciting about the new graphene material, however. Two-dimensional flat sheets of graphene are immensely strong, but due to their incredible thinness, aren’t particularly useful for making 3D materials which can be used in the real world. That no longer has to be the case.
“Having the ability to design and predict the mechanical function of such porous 3D carbon material will allow us to reach a series of lightweight bulk materials, with known density and mechanical functions, for wide engineering applications,” Qin continued. “These applications in architecture, infrastructure, and the building world in general may eventually help to reduce the usage of the conventional materials, such as steel, and hence effectively reduce the building weight and handling labor cost. The high strength and high chemical resistance of such carbon materials can also help to make architecture and infrastructure more resilient.”
In other words, and with any luck. graphene houses — here we come!