Researchers at MIT have designed a strong and lightweight material, by compressing and fusing flakes of graphene. The new material, a sponge-like configuration with a density of just 5%, can have a strength 10 times that of steel. This work could pose an interesting way of transforming graphene into useful 3D objects and items.
The team developed the product by using a combination of both heat and pressure, compressing and fusing the flakes of graphene together. This process produced a strong, stable structure whose form resembles that of some corals and microscopic creatures called diatoms. These shapes, which have an enormous surface area in proportion to their volume, proved to be remarkably strong.
The configurations of their objects were made using 3D printers in the lab, and were then mechanically tested in order to establish their compressive and tensile properties. MIT sees the material someday being used in airplanes, cars, and perhaps even water filtration systems.
The team states that the crucial aspect of the new 3D forms relies more on their unusual geometrical configuration than with the material itself, which suggests that similar strong, lightweight materials could be made from a variety of materials by creating similar geometric features.