Another Way Carbon Makes Life Better

 

With wall thicknesses of about 160 nanometers, a closed-cell, plate-based nanolattice structure designed by researchers at UCI and other institutions is the first experimental verification that such arrangements reach the theorized limits of strength and stiffness in porous materials. Credit: Cameron Crook and Jens Bauer / UCI

Brian Bell, University of California, Irvine, writes at phys.org announcing a new way that carbon will serve humanity in years to come.  It’s another example of scientific progress making human life better. The article is Team designs carbon nanostructure stronger than diamonds. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine and other institutions have architecturally designed plate-nanolattices—nanometer-sized carbon structures—that are stronger than diamonds as a ratio of strength to density.

In a recent study in Nature Communications, the scientists report success in conceptualizing and fabricating the material, which consists of closely connected, closed-cell plates instead of the cylindrical trusses common in such structures over the past few decades.

“Previous beam-based designs, while of great interest, had not been so efficient in terms of mechanical properties,” said corresponding author Jens Bauer, a UCI researcher in mechanical & aerospace engineering. “This new class of plate-nanolattices that we’ve created is dramatically stronger and stiffer than the best beam-nanolattices.”

According to the paper, the team’s design has been shown to improve on the average performance of cylindrical beam-based architectures by up to 639 percent in strength and 522 percent in rigidity.

Members of the architected materials laboratory of Lorenzo Valdevit, UCI professor of materials science & engineering as well as mechanical & aerospace engineering, verified their findings using a scanning electron microscope and other technologies provided by the Irvine Materials Research Institute.

Bauer said the team’s achievement rests on a complex 3-D laser printing process called two-photon lithography direct laser writing. As an ultraviolet-light-sensitive resin is added layer by layer, the material becomes a solid polymer at points where two photons meet. The technique is able to render repeating cells that become plates with faces as thin as 160 nanometers.

One of the group’s innovations was to include tiny holes in the plates that could be used to remove excess resin from the finished material. As a final step, the lattices go through pyrolysis, in which they’re heated to 900 degrees Celsius in a vacuum for one hour. According to Bauer, the end result is a cube-shaped lattice of glassy carbon that has the highest strength scientists ever thought possible for such a porous material.

Nanolattices hold great promise for structural engineers, particularly in aerospace, because it’s hoped that their combination of strength and low mass density will greatly enhance aircraft and spacecraft performance.

Other co-authors on the study were Anna Guell Izard, a UCI graduate student in mechanical & aerospace engineering, and researchers from UC Santa Barbara and Germany’s Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg. The project was funded by the Office of Naval Research and the German Research Foundation.

Footnote: This material adds to the many ways our lives are already enriched by carbon-based materials.

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