The Strongest Material Known to Man Is Now Printable

October
2018

A new technique allows researchers to print 3D graphene structures with unmatched mechanical strength and stiffness. 3D graphene created by existing methods typically succumbs to degradation, but engineers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VT) used a unique combination of polymers and graphene oxide to 3D-print structures that ultimately convert to relatively strong graphene.

Graphene has provoked excitement in the scientific community over the past several years. It is considered the first two-dimensional material — carbon atoms bonded in the same flat plane align to form a graphene sheet.

The material is the strongest ever tested, surpassing even diamond and titanium in terms of strength. Previous research has explored graphene’s applications as a conductor in solar panels or smartphones, as an alternative to traditional batteries, and as a potential structural material for air and space travel.

These applications have been limited by the lack of technology that can 3D-print graphene structures with practical functions. Previously, scientists have stacked sheets of graphene in an attempt to create these structures. That method reduces mechanical properties such as strength because the stacks of 2D sheets are linked together at...

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