Tuesday, January 10, 2017

MIT offers super-light & super strong material – what do you want to build?

Researchers at MIT have done it, created a porous sample of graphene that was 10 times stronger than steel BUT only 5% of the density. Next they created a scaled up 3D printed model of the same adjectives; super-strong and super-light but this model was to pass attributes on without the use of graphene. These models were referred to as gyroids.

So what have they done? Essentially they have done something that has been tried for decades – the structure they have created is an unrolled carbon nanotube. Think back to all you have read on how if only they could break the code, get the carbon nanotubes so they could be used…Do you know how big this is?

Granted we are still not there but the rest of the answers are one ah-ha moment away!  Here are some of the uses for Carbon nanotubes: Emission Devices, memory devices (high-density memory arrays, memory logic switching arrays), Nano-MEMs, AFM imaging probes, distributed diagnostics sensors, and strain sensors. Also, they can be utilized in thermal control materials, super strength and light weight reinforcement and nanocomposites, EMI shielding materials, catalytic support, gas storage materials, high surface area electrodes, and light weight conductor cable and wires.

Now think about that last part. Light weight conductor cable and wires – could that be used for the space elevator? Accepting that a space elevator is feasible at all is due to the many advances and expected advances in the science of nanotechnology, especially carbon nanotubes (atomic-scale threads with a tensile strength greater than steel but with vastly less weight; when bound together, they become unimaginably strong.) OF course we’ve been chasing that dream for some time.  Back in 2007, Wade Adams, a nanotech researcher at Rice University, said nano engineers have created threads 15% as strong as those needed for an elevator, and continue to make steady progress. At that time the existing nanotube threads were already triple the strength of the Kevlar strands used in bulletproof vests.

So what does this new creation mean? It means that while generally the creation of the gyroids on the scale of atom thin graphene is not considered the usual fare, at least not using current manufacturing methods but it also means that we now have the knowledge to build stronger materials for anything from personal devices to buildings to, do I dare hope?, space elevators.

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