MIT’s 3D graphene experiment leads to a surprising discovery

While the material is important, structure it turns out is key.

Although there have been many reports stating how graphene is essentially gone to save the world with its innumerous powers and applications, in the real world, instances of the demonstration of such abilities have been far and wide.

It is in this scenario that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found evidence of how this wonderful material, graphene, can be put to use in the real world.

According to the findings of MIT’s latest experiment with this wonder material, not only is graphene 5% as dense as steel it is also ten times stronger, when it is more than just a flat sheet.

In their experiment, MIT’s researchers created a highly accurate computer model, they then 3D printed the diatomic cubes to represent the material’s sponge-like structure and then subjected them to high compression levels.

To better appreciate the experiment, you have to keep in mind that the shape of the diatomic cubes is critical: although the cube itself looks like a magenta sponge its underlying porous structure implies more surface area, which in turn translates to higher strengths at lower weights.

Significantly, different cubes reacted unexpectedly: the ones with thicker walls turned out to be less stable than thinner construction during high pressures. Furthermore, under high pressure, thicker walled cubes shattered explosively, while thinner constructions allowed themselves to be broken down in a controlled manner and most importantly, retained its shape almost to the end.

Researchers explained this phenomenon by saying, thicker walls contained the deformation energy while the thinner walls allow the deformation of the structure to happen in a phased manner, and thus aren’t explosive.

This has led to the discovery that it is not so much the material that’s being used, although that is important, that is important for the material’s strength, but its shape is the key factor, here.

“You can replace the material itself with anything,” MIT’s head of Civil and Environmental Engineering said. “The geometry is the dominant factor.”

Potential uses include taking polymer or metal particles, coating with graphene and removing the base material after due pressure and heat treatments.

The outcome of this method would have graphene’s incredibly light and super strong structure, the application of which could be anything from concrete bridges to filtration systems or even used in chemical processing plants.


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