Using a novel polymerization process, MIT chemical engineers have created a new material that is stronger than steel and as light as plastic, and can be easily manufactured in large quantities.
The new material is a two-dimensional polymer that self-assembles into sheets, unlike all other polymers, which form one-dimensional, spaghetti-like chains. Until now, scientists had believed it was impossible to induce polymers to form 2D sheets.
Such a material could be used as a lightweight, durable coating for car parts or cell phones, or as a building material for bridges or other structures.
Because the material self-assembles in solution, it can be made in large quantities by simply increasing the quantity of the starting materials.
The new material’s elastic modulus – a measure of how much force it takes to deform a material – is between four and six times greater than that of bulletproof glass. They also found that its yield strength, or how much force it takes to break the material, is twice that of steel, even though the material has only about one-sixth the density of steel.
Source: MIT News
Image: Christine Daniloff/MIT