Hard as steel, light as paper: the new nanotech material

 know the new nanotechnological material

The tremendous temperatures of nuclear fusion reactors or the conquest of outer space are fields in which the development of new materials has become a first order requirement. And the answer most likely lies in nanotechnology, as shown by the innovative material recently unveiled by a consortium of MIT and Caltech (California Institute of Technology) in the US together with ETH Zürich in Switzerland.

The main property of this new material is its great resistance combined with unprecedented lightness. Specifically, the researchers indicate that it will be much more resistant than Kevlar or steel, which would allow it to be used in protective clothing or in the coating of objects and structures.

To achieve this, they have resorted to a design with nanocarbon patterns that confer resistance to the material, a technique known as nanoarchitecture. Subsequently, they have taken it to the laboratory to subject it to a harsh bombardment of microparticles at the speed of sound. At the end of the article you can see a microparticle impact sequence in a series of snapshots.

The structure of the material has been created by means of a two-photon lithography technique. Basically, it involves using a laser beam to solidify a photosensitive resin, giving it the desired structure. It is about doing, at the nanoscale, something similar to what we discussed in this article on 3D printing with light.

The result is a kind of microscopic chain mail with a structure known as a tetracaidecahedron, a fourteen-sided polyhedron. This type of geometry had previously been used in energy-mitigating foams.

By taking it to the nanoscale realm and endowing it in this way, carbon, which is normally a brittle material, becomes flexible. And, as the Jewish Talmud concludes, it is preferable to be flexible like a reed rather than rigid like a cypress. Especially if you suffer an impact at a thousand meters per second.

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