This new material is stronger and lighter than steel, but it’s as light as plastic.
MIT chemical engineers created a stronger material than steel but as light as plastic.
This exciting new work comes from Michael Strano’s lab, the Carbon P. Dubbs professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT.
It’s a 2-dimensional polymer that is the key to this material’s strength. Polymers almost always consist of a chain or molecules, which is why they are flexible.
They are often lightweight because they are composed of small elements such as carbon, oxygen, or hydrogen.
For many years scientists have known that a two-dimensional plastic — such as a polymer sheet — can be extremely strong and light.
This is however extremely difficult. A large number of smaller molecules must align properly and form atomic bonds to make a polymer.
Let’s suppose that these molecules are placed in a 2D plane prior to uniting. Even if one molecule moves a bit, the entire structure can be distorted.
This is inevitable given the large number of small molecules in existence and their kinetic energy.
Strano and his colleagues devised a new process for polymerization that solves this problem.
Their results indicate that we may have found a gold mine.
This material can be used to make bridges and other structures, as well as as lightweight, durable coatings for parts of cars or cell phones.
Plastic bridges and houses no longer seem like jokes.