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Meet Carbyne, the New Supermaterial

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better than graphene, researchers at Rice University have published findings that describe the properties of carbyne, a  “supermaterial” that is stronger than any other material chemists have analyzed. While graphene is 100 times stronger than steel of the same thickness, carbyne is stronger still.

Carbyne is a chain of carbon atoms linked by alternate triple- and single-bonds, or via consecutive double bonds. It has been known to chemists for a while, but was not synthesized until recently, and its properties remained a mystery.

Researcher Mingjie Liu’s team have calculated the material’s properties using first principles, and found that carbyne is twice as stiff as any known material, and significantly stronger than graphene, carbon nanotubes, and diamonds. (Its specific strength is 6.0–7.5×10^7 N∙m/kg.)

“It has an extreme tensile stiffness—stiffer by a factor of two than graphene and carbon nanotubes—and a specific strength surpassing that of any other known material,” the researchers write in a recently published paper. “This combination of unusual mechanical and electronic properties is of great interest for applications in nanomechanical systems, opto-/electromechanical devices, strong and light materials for mechanical applications, or as high-specific-area energy storage matrices.”

It is also flexible, and far more stable than first presumed. Attaching different chemical groups to carbyne allows it to rotate freely or become torsionally stiff when twisted. You can read more about it over at Phys.org.

While much research is yet to be done on the material, some are already predicting its use in everything from new batteries to a space elevator.

Source: MIT Technology Review

About Brian Albright

Brian Albright is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@digitaleng.news.