Graphene is thought to be the strongest 2-D material on earth. Recently a research team at MIT used heat and pressure to compress flakes of graphene to create a new 3-D material. The new material has 5 percent the density of steel but 10 times the strength. The process produced a form similar to corals and diatoms; both marine creatures have very large surface areas in proportion to their volume.
The models were made in a laboratory using a high-resolution, multi-material 3-D printer. The team printed several 3-D models using the discovered geometric design and subjected each model to mechanical tests of tensile and compressive properties. Mechanical response under loading was simulated using the team’s theoretical models. The results from the experiments and simulations matched accurately, the researchers say.
The strength-to-weight ratio findings and the porous nature of the material may affect many industries, including vehicle and building construction, filtration and energy storage.
“You could either use the real graphene material or use the geometry we discovered with other materials, like polymers or metals,” says Markus J. Buehler, head of MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “You can replace the material itself with anything. The geometry is the dominant factor.”