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MIT just invented one of the strongest, lightest materials known to man

Published Jan 6th, 2017 5:12PM EST
science news
Image: MIT

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The bright minds at MIT are always cooking up new technologies, so to hear that they invented a new material that’s stronger than steel isn’t even all that surprising, but what’s particularly interesting it that they managed to also make it far lighter than almost everything else. The team of scientists used an extremely common element to create it: Carbon. 

Researchers have long known how strong carbon can be when it’s arranged in the right way. Graphene, which essentially an extremely thin sheet of carbon atoms arranged in two dimensions, is ridiculously strong, and the applications for it are growing by the day. The only drawback is that, because it’s typically produced in thin sheets, it’s hard to construct three dimensional objects out of it. That’s where MIT comes in.

MIT discovered that by taking many small flakes of graphene and fusing them together they could essentially create a mesh-like structure that, while porous, retained graphene’s amazing strength properties. They used 3D plastic models to test what kind of a structure would be the strongest under pressure, and then arranged the graphene in the same manner. The resulting material is only 5% as dense as steel, but an amazing 10 times stronger.

MIT envisions the material potentially being used in automobiles, airplanes, and other applications where weight needs to be as low as possible, but strength and rigidity is still of great importance. The new graphene-based 3D material is thought to be one of the strongest, yet lightest materials known to man, which is a pretty astounding feat.