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Polyaramide Is Stronger Than Steel, Light As Plastic

MIT engineers have created a two-dimensional polymer that self-assembles into sheets, creating a material that can be used to coat cell phones or build bridges.

Strano and his colleagues came up with a new polymerization process that allows them to generate a two-dimensional sheet called a polyaramide. For the monomer building blocks, they use a compound called melamine, which contains a ring of carbon and nitrogen atoms. Under the right conditions, these monomers can grow in two dimensions, forming disks. These disks stack on top of each other, held together by hydrogen bonds between the layers, which make the structure very stable and strong.

“Instead of making a spaghetti-like molecule, we can make a sheet-like molecular plane, where we get molecules to hook themselves together in two dimensions,” Strano says. “This mechanism happens spontaneously in solution, and after we synthesize the material, we can easily spin-coat thin films that are extraordinarily strong.”

The researchers found that the new material’s elastic modulus — a measure of how much force it takes to deform a material — is between four and six times greater than that of bulletproof glass. They also found that its yield strength, or how much force it takes to break the material, is twice that of steel, even though the material has only about one-sixth the density of steel.

(Via SciTechDaily.)

I just love impossible, science-fictional materials - especially when clever engineers and scientists can create them for our use. Consider aladur from Sunward Flight by Leo Zagat, published by Super Science Stories in 1943:

The mask-helmeted and armored figures harnessed by aludur straps to the tip of each stubby wing leaned rigidly into the speed-gale.


(Sunward Flight by Leo Zagat)

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