Reconfigured Graphene 10X Strong, 5 Percent Dense, As Steel

Industrious MIT researchers have created a reconfigured graphene, a porous material ten times stronger than steel, and yet only 5% as dense.


(Reconfigured graphene)

The material is composed of graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon that's considered to be the strongest of all known materials. But because the 2D form of graphene is so thin—it's only one atom thick—it's impractical for building purposes. The team's breakthrough is in creating a 3D geometry out of graphene using a combination of heat and pressure.

As detailed in a paper published today in the journal Science Advances, they developed computational models of the form and then recreated it with graphene. The kicker? During testing, they found that the samples of the porous material were ten times stronger than steel, even though they were only 5% as dense...

But Qin believes that the potential applications for the material aren't limited to buildings on Earth. It's in shipping supplies into space to build space stations, or even colonies, that such a lightweight building material could dramatically reduce costs.

I love science-fictional materials, so naturally I'm reminded of alohydrolium, the lightest of all metals, introduced by Hugo Gernsback in his 1911 scientifiction classic Ralph 124c 41 +.

Of course, it's a popular idea. You might want to take a look at helio-beryllium from Out Around Rigel (1931) by Robert H. Wilson, sodaluminum from Exiles of the Moon (1931) by Nat Schachner (w. AL Zagat) and harbenite from Tarzan at the Earth's Core (1929) by Edgar Rice Burroughs. And don't forget nothing from It was Nothing - Really! (1969) by Theodore Sturgeon.

Update 08-Jan-2017: Ultralight materials were a staple in the architectural visions of scientifiction writers like A.G. Stangland, writing in The Ancient Brain in 1929:

Out of respect for my natural wonderment, Jak pointed out to me and explained the ultra-modern objects of my interest. The buildings were constructed of an alloy metal which was extremely strong and light in mass. It had made possible the graceful sweeping finish of the skyscrapers, which seemed to have an average height of twenty stories. Between the towering masses of metal stretched spidery suspension pathways, the sidewalks of which were moving, thus transporting pedestrians.

End update.

Via Fastcodesign. Thanks to David Brin who tweeted about this material.

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