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3D Printed Graphene: Lighter than Air, 10 times Stronger than Steel

Computerworld reports on a recent development catalogued in an issue of the journal Science Advances.  “MIT researchers have been able to use graphene to print 3D objects with a geometry that has 10 times the strength of steel but only a fraction of the weight.”

Prior to this advancement, “researchers struggled to use graphene’s two-dimensional strength in three-dimensional materials.”  As Markus Buehler, the head of MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) explains: “what we’ve done is to realize the [dream] of translating these 2D materials into three-dimensional structures.”

Buehler’s team went about achieving this dream by “using a proprietary, multi-material 3D printer.  The structures have a ‘sponge-like’ configuration with a density of just 5%.  Combining heat and pressure, the MIT researchers were able to compress small flakes of graphene to produce a strong, stable structure ‘whose form resembles that of some corals and microscopic creatures called diatoms.’”

“The new configurations were made in the lab using [as stated previously] a high-resolution, multi-material 3D printer.  They were mechanically tested for their tensile and compressive properties and simulated using the team’s theoretical models.  The results from the printed models and the simulations matched.”

As Buehler concludes, “you could either use the real graphene material or use the geometry we discovered with other materials, like polymers or metals.  You can replace the material itself with anything.  The geometry is the dominant factor.  It’s something that has the potential to transfer to many things.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of MIT and Computerworld

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