Scientists at MIT have created one of the strongest lightweight materials known to man by fusing together flakes of the super-material graphene.
Graphene in its 2D form is already known to be the strongest materials known to man, however scientists have been exploring the ways in which they can use graphene to create 3D shapes which can then be actually applied in the real world.
What they came up with was this: a sponge-like design that boasts a density of just 5 per cent and yet is 10 times stronger than steel.
Despite the huge fanfare that graphene will become the material that will solve all the world’s problems scientists have actually had a really difficult time turning that into a reality.
The problem is that graphene only maintains its incredible properties when it is in its 2D form.
So what scientists did was layer flakes and flakes of graphene on top of each other until they were able to create the shape you see above.
Interestingly when the team started testing the 3D material they had created they found something unexpected.
Its resistance to pressure changed dramatically when the design of the structure was altered ever so slightly.
By experimenting with unusual geometrical configurations the shape of the material is significantly more important than the material itself, as you can see in this rather dramatic video below:
MIT’s David L. Chandler has a great way of describing how this works: “Paper has little strength along its length and width, and can be easily crumpled up. But when made into certain shapes, for example rolled into a tube, suddenly the strength along the length of the tube is much greater and can support substantial weight.”
Its uses in the real world are potentially limitless, the only hurdle we need to overcome now is the ability to produce these shapes in large enough quantities that they can become useful to modern industries.
Coolest Science Photos Of The Decade:
2014NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz and M. Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and Z. Levay (STScI)
2012Hadoram Shirihai/Tubenoses project
2011Wikimedia Commons: Wtop.com
2010NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)
2009Sung Hoon Kang, Joanna Aizenberg and Boaz Pokroy; Harvard University
2007Gloria Kwon/NIKON Small World
2005Charles Krebs/NIKON Small World