MIT chemical engineers have created a new “impossible” material that is stronger than steel and as light as plastic, and can be easily manufactured in large quantities, thanks to a new novel polymerization process. Unlike other polymers that form one-dimensional, spaghetti-like chains, this new material is essentially a two-dimensional polymer capable of being self-assembled into sheets.
Photo credit: Christine Daniloff, MIT
Practical applications include being used as coating for car parts or smartphones and building material for bridges as well as other structures. What’s really surprising is just how much force it takes to deform this material, which has been discovered to be up to 6-times greater than bulletproof glass. It also has twice the yield strength – how much force it takes to break the material – is twice that of steel, despite having a density about one-sixth of steel.
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We don’t usually think of plastics as being something that you could use to support a building, but with this material, you can enable new things. It has very unusual properties and we’re very excited about that,” said Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and the senior author of the new study.