A research team at the MIT have discovered a way to make the world’s strongest material Graphene even stronger.
“Once we created these 3D structures, we wanted to see what’s the limit—what’s the strongest possible material we can produce,” said Zhao Qin, CEE research scientist and study co-author. “One of our samples has five percent the density of steel, but 10 times the strength.”
Graphene is a thin layer of pure carbon. It is made of a single layer of tightly packed carbon atoms arranged in two dimensions. The atoms are bonded together in a hexagonal honeycomb configuration that gives graphene its strength. With its two-dimensional form, graphene is the strongest material discovered to date. In comparison, it is ten times stronger than steel with only 5 percent of its density. However, until recently, researchers were unable to transform this two-dimensional strength into a three-dimensional product of value.
The team, led by Markus Buehler, the head of MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), was able to strengthen graphene even further by compressing and fusing it into a three-dimensional sponge-like configuration. A combination of heat and pressure was used in the production process.
Watch the video below to see how strong the new material is.
“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.”
The three-dimensional graphene shows resemblance to certain corals and microscopic creatures such as diatoms. These both have a massive surface area to volume ratio. However they are extremely light as a result of their porous structure.
“You can replace the material itself with anything,” Markus J. Buehler, a materials scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said in a statement. “The geometry is the dominant factor. It’s something that has the potential to transfer to many things.”
Future Application of Graphene
Graphene exhibits unbound potential for future application. It can boost the capacity and charge time of batteries by creating ultra-fast charging supercapacitors. It also increases the lifespan of batteries, ultimately creating batteries which last forever. This is possible since Graphene is able to store large amounts of energy with no reduction in storage capacity between charges; which is what occurs with silicone. This will ultimately make electric vehicles a more sought out transport solution as well as allow electrons to charge up in seconds.
Furthermore, graphene can be effective for improving the desalination process that separates dissolved salts and other minerals from water. This process can take place with a filtration material made out of a thin layer of graphene called Perforene.