12/01/2017 11:58 GMT | Updated 12/01/2017 11:59 GMT

Scientists Have Created One Of The Lightest, Strongest Materials In The World

It's 10x stronger than steel! 💪

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:

  • 2015
    Martin Le-May
    A baby weasel took the ride of a lifetime on the back of a green woodpecker in Hornchurch Country Park in East London. Photographer Martin Le-May just happened to be lucky enough to capture the moment on March 2, 2015.
  • 2014
    NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz and M. Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and Z. Levay (STScI)
    Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope assembled a comprehensive picture of the evolving universe -- among the most colorful deep space images ever captured by the 25-year-old telescope. The image was released on June 3, 2014.
  • 2013
    NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins snapped a selfie while completing a spacewalk outside of the Earth-orbiting International Space Station on Dec. 24, 2013.
  • 2012
    Hadoram Shirihai/Tubenoses project
    A rare Mascarene petrel with an egg-shaped bulge in its middle. Photographed in 2012 by researchers near Reunion, an island off the coast of Madagascar, it was said to be the first to show a bird flying with a visible "baby bump."
  • 2011
    Wikimedia Commons:
    In 2011, a female Celebes crested macaque (Macaca nigra) in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, decided to pick up British wildlife photographer David Slater's camera and take a selfie.
  • 2010
    NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)
    A stunning scanning electron micrograph of a human T lymphocyte (also called a T cell) from the immune system of a healthy donor, taken on May 24, 2010.
  • 2009
    Sung Hoon Kang, Joanna Aizenberg and Boaz Pokroy; Harvard University
    An electron microscope photograph shows self-assembling hair-like polymers around a polystyrene sphere, about two micrometers in diameter. It won first place in the National Science Foundation's 2009 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge.
  • 2008
    Hurricane Ike covers more than half of Cuba. It was taken by the Expedition 17 crew aboard the International Space Station from a vantage point of 220 miles above Earth, on September 9, 2008.
  • 2007
    Gloria Kwon/NIKON Small World
    A close-up look at a double transgenic mouse embryo, just 18.5 days old. The photo won first place in Nikon's 2007 Small World Photomicrography Competition.
  • 2006
    Thierry Legault
    A photo of the International Space Station (ISS) and Space Shuttle Atlantis flying between Earth and the sun. The photo was taken from Normandie, France on Sept. 17, 2006.
  • 2005
    Charles Krebs/NIKON Small World
    A portrait of a Muscoid fly (house fly) that won first place in Nikon's 2005 Small World Photomicrography Competition.