MIT scientists have created a stronger and lighter material that can be easily produced in large quantities using “a novel polymerization process.” The strength of the material compares to steel, while the lightness of the material compares to plastic.
Other polymers are 1D, but the material is a 2D polymer and self-collects into layers. Scientists have always believed that using polymers to make 2d sheets was impossible, but the MIT chemical engineers have proven that wrong. Normal polymers form 1d, spaghetti-like chains.
According to the university chemical engineering professor, the material can be used to make cellphone or car parts or as a building material for structures like bridges because it is lightweight and durable.
It will be a big help to such industries. Transporting such materials will be easy and cheap, especially in building bridges.
“We don’t usually think of plastics as being something that you could use to support a building, but with this material, you can enable new things,” said the professor. “It has very unusual properties, and we’re very excited about that.”
Polymers like plastics have a series of building lumps known as monomers. The series grows when new molecules are added to their ends. After fully forming, the polymers can be molded into any 3d objects like soda bottles using injection molding.
The new polymerization process by Stano and his partners is a new study that has made the process a success.
“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 said. “This mechanism happens spontaneously in solution, and after we synthesize the material, we can easily spin-coat thin films that are extraordinarily strong.”
According to Stano, advancement in the study will help them make strong and very thin materials using planar molecules.