A new material could unlock revolutionary potential for car manufacturers and even the creation of next-generation body armor, new reports indicate. The material is said to be four times stronger than steel and up to five times lighter. That’s a very bold claim and one that no doubt will have a lot of eyes on it going forward.
The new material was created by researchers and material scientists working at UConn, Columbia University, and Brookhaven National Lab. The material is detailed in a study that was published in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science in July of this year.
The researchers say that the new material is four times stronger than steel, making it sturdier than one of the most commonly used materials in constructing vehicles, buildings, and other things. They created the material by using a DNA scaffold, which enabled the formation of complex nanostructured silica – a material similar to glass.
Glass being stronger than steel might seem impossible, but glass is usually so fragile because of flaws within its structure. This new DNA scaffold does away with a lot of those flaws, allowing for a stronger material that, while similar to glass, is more along the lines of steel when it comes to overall durability.
Of course, creating a large piece of glass that is completely flawless is a huge endeavor. This is why the researchers relied on their own cleverness to make this happen and utilized nano-sized glass pieces to create the material, allowing it to be made of several pieces of flawless glass in a frame-like design. Think of it like the framework of a building but on a much, much smaller scale.
From here, the researchers covered each piece with a glass coating that was just a few hundred atoms thick. And, because there’s a ton of empty space between each piece, it allowed the material to be both stronger than steel and lighter, too.