Scientists have found a new way to structure carbon at the nanoscale, making a material that’s superior to diamond on the strength-to-density ratio.
While the tiny carbon lattice has been fabricated and tested in the lab, it’s a very long way off practical use. But this new approach could help us build stronger and lighter materials in the future – which is something that’s of great interest to industries such as aerospace and aviation.
What we’re talking about here is something known as a nanolattices – porous structures like the one in the image above that’s made up of three-dimensional carbon struts and braces. Due to their unique structure, they’re incredibly strong and lightweight.
Usually these nanolattices are based around a cylindrical framework (they’re called beam-nanolattices). But the team has now created plate-nanolattices, structures based around tiny plates.
This subtle shift may not sound like much, but the researchers say it can make a big difference when it comes to strength.
Based on early experiments and calculations, the plate approach promises a 639 percent increase in strength and a 522 percent increase in rigidity over the beam nanolattice approach.
“Scientists have predicted that nanolattices arranged in a plate-based design would be incredibly strong,” says materials scientist Cameron Crook, from the University of California, Irvine (UCI).
“But the difficulty in manufacturing structures this way meant that the theory was never proven, until we succeeded in doing it.”