MIT Unveils New Material That’s Strongest and Lightest On Earth

It's 10 times stronger than steel, with only five percent of its density.

1. 10. 17 by June Javelosa
Melanie Gonick/MIT
Image by Melanie Gonick/MIT

Strong and Porous

For years, researchers have known that carbon, when arranged in a certain way, can be very strong. Case in point: graphene.

Graphene, which was heretofore, the strongest material known to man, is made from an extremely thin sheet of carbon atoms arranged in two dimensions. But there’s one drawback: while notable for its thinness and unique electrical properties, it’s very difficult to create useful, three-dimensional materials out of graphene.

Now, a team of MIT researchers discovered that taking small flakes of graphene and fusing them following a mesh-like structure not only retains the material’s strength, but the graphene also remains porous. Based on experiments conducted on 3D printed models, researchers have determined that this new material, with its distinct geometry, is actually stronger than graphene – making it 10 times stronger than steel, with only five percent of its density.

Future Applications

The discovery of a material that is extremely strong but exceptionally lightweight will have numerous applications. As MIT reports:

Advertisement

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.

Simulation results of compression (top left and i) and tensile (bottom left and ii) tests on 3-D graphene. Image Credit: Zhao Qin

“You could either use the real graphene material or use the geometry we discovered with other materials, like polymers or metals,” says Markus Buehler, the head of MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and the McAfee Professor of Engineering. “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.”

Large scale structural projects, such as bridges, can follow the geometry to ensure that the structure is strong and sound. Construction may prove to be easier, given that the material used will now be significantly lighter. Because of its porous nature, it may also be applied to filtration systems.

This work, says Huajian Gao, a professor of engineering at Brown University, who was not involved in this work, “shows a promising direction of bringing the strength of 2-D materials and the power of material architecture design together.”


As a Futurism reader, we invite you join the Singularity Global Community, our parent company’s forum to discuss futuristic science & technology with like-minded people from all over the world. It’s free to join, sign up now!

Advertisement

Share This Article

Keep up.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter to keep in touch with the subjects shaping our future.
I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its User Agreement and Privacy Policy

Advertisement

Copyright ©, Singularity Education Group All Rights Reserved. See our User Agreement, Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with prior written permission of Futurism. Fonts by Typekit and Monotype.