Considered one of the hardest materials found on Earth, diamonds serve as a reference for many researches aimed at creating structures that surpass its solidity. Recently, researchers from the University of California at Irvine (UCI) managed to create a nanoscale carbon structure with a much higher strength / density ratio.
Leave the cylindrical arrangement in favor of a plate arrangement
Featured in the review Nature Communications, this innovative design is based on porous structures composed of spacers and frames, organized in a three-dimensional network offering a remarkable resistance / density ratio. Explored for decades, this approach has until now involved the use of cylindrical arrangements. The American researchers responsible for this new advance attribute it to the abandonment of this arrangement in favor of a plate layout.
” Previous designs, although of great interest, were found to be significantly less effective in terms of mechanical properties “, Explain Jens Bauer, lead author of the study. ” The new class of plate nanostructures we have created is considerably more resistant and rigid. “
However, if this new approach was supposed to offer much higher resistance on paper, designing it represented a real challenge for researchers. To do this, they used a complex 3D printing technique, involving the use of a focused laser beam inside a droplet of liquid resin sensitive to ultraviolet light, in order to transform it made of solid polymer, which can then be worked to create microscopic plates with a size of only 160 nanometers.
A material with unprecedented mechanical performance
Tiny holes in the plates removed excess resin from the structure (see image below), which was then subjected to a pyrolysis, carried out under vacuum and implying that it is heated for one hour at 900 ° C.
According to American researchers, the carbon nanostructure obtained thanks to this approach had an average resistance up to 639% higher than that of cylindrical architectures, while its rigidity was revealed on average 522% higher.
” If the theoretical performances of these structures had been predicted before, we were the first research team to confirm them through concrete experiences that allowed us to develop a material with unprecedented mechanical performance. “, Said in particular Lorenzo Valdevit, having participated in the research.
According to the authors of the study, this type of nanostructure could in particular find applications in the aerospace field, where engineers are continually looking for low density materials offering high resistance.