MIT Creates Material Stronger Than Steel But as Light as Plastic


A group of chemical engineers at MIT have designed a new material that they claim to be sturdy than steel — but still as light as plastic. 

If the science holds up, it could be a great progress in material sciences, potentially giving objects like car parts or cell phones an extraordinarily resistant skin. The group is even going as far as to say that it can be easily mass produced. 

"It has very surprising properties and we’re very delighted about that," says by Michael Strano, a regius professor of chemical engineering at MIT and senior author of a study about the research published in the journal Nature this week, in an announcement. 

Two-Dimensional Polymers 

The team's secrets are exceptional, two-dimensional polymers that can arrange themselves into sheets. Almost all other polymers are not able to form one-dimensional chains that are then formed into three-dimensional objects. 

Until now, scientists have supposed sheets of two-dimensional polymers are not possible to form. But with some tough work, Strano and his team they were able to do just that using a remarkable process that involves the compound melamine. 

The result is really strong and thin material dubbed 2DPA-1 that is between four and six times more unaffected by bulletproof glass. It is also twice as tough to break than steel, in spite of having only one-sixth of the density. 

The new material also doesn't allow any gases to pass through making it a much better option to "shield metal in cars and other vehicles, or steel structures," Strano said. 

The team is now expecting to come up with even more new materials by making adjustments to the molecular structure of their polymer sheets. 

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