A team of researchers at US university Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has designed one of the strongest lightweight materials known by compressing and fusing flakes of graphene.
Arranged in a sponge-like configuration, the porous, 3D forms of graphene developed at MIT are 10 times as strong as steel, but much lighter.
The material was created by compressing small flakes of graphene into a paste, using a combination of heat and pressure, and which was then 3D printed into the specially calculated forms. This process produced a strong, stable structure whose form resembles that of some corals and microscopic creatures called diatoms.
In its 2D form, graphene has been hailed as a super material and is thought to be the strongest of all known materials. It boasts an impressive list of superlatives: 200 times stronger than steel, the thinnest material on earth, the world’s most conductive material, as well as being transparent, impermeable and flexible.
The development of the material into a 3D form marks an important step towards the practical use of the material within construction projects.
At one atom thick, Graphene is described as a 2D material, however, because of its extraordinary thinness it is “not very useful for making 3D materials that could be used in vehicles, buildings, or devices”, says Markus Buehler, the head of MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “What we’ve done is to realise the wish of translating these 2D materials into 3D structures.”
The research was supported by the Office of Naval Research, the Department of Defense Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, and BASF-North American Center for Research on Advanced Materials.