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New Carbon-Based Material to Benefit Coatings

Friday, July 16, 2021

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As the result of a research study by scientists and engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and ETH Zürich, a new micro and nanoarchitected material has been developed.

According to reports, the new find opens an entirely new range of materials with extraordinary physical properties that were unattainable in “traditional” materials, with one of the most important aspects being that it has a high strength to mass ratio with extreme powers of resilience.

The material, designed from precisely patterned nanoscale structures, could reportedlyeven be a basis for lightly, tougher alternatives to Kevlar and steel.

Carbon Material Research

Created using nanometer-scale carbon struts, the ultralight material—measuring thinner than the width of human hair—is reported to have a material toughness and mechanical robustness capable of withstanding microparticles shot at it at supersonic speeds.

The material was also noted to have prevented miniature projectiles from tearing through it. When compared to other metals, such as steel, Kelvar, aluminum and other impact-resistant materials of comparable weight, the new material was also more efficient at absorbing impacts.

“The same amount of mass of our material would be much more efficient at stopping a projectile than the same amount of mass of Kevlar,” said the lead author of the study, Carlos Portela, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT.


As the result of a research study by scientists and engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and ETH Zürich, a new micro and nanoarchitected material has been developed.

Consisting of patterned nanometer-scale structures, the research team reports that depending on how the structures are arranged within the material, its unique properties can be altered, such as exceptional lightness and resilience. However, the potential of making the material even lighter or more impact-resistant has been largely untested.

“We only know about their response in a slow-deformation regime, whereas a lot of their practical use is hypothesized to be in real-world applications where nothing deforms slowly,” said Portela.

To further explore the material under conditions of fast deformation, at Caltech, the team fabricated a nanoarchitected material using two-photon lithography, a technique that uses a fast, high-powered laser to solidify microscopic structures in a photosensitive resin. From this point, the team then created a repetitious pattern, known as tetrakaidecahedron, where the material’s lattice configuration composed of microscopic struts.

Portela further explained, “Historically this geometry appears in energy-mitigating foams. While carbon is normally brittle, the arrangement and small sizes of the struts in the nanoarchitected material gives rise to a rubbery, bending-dominated architecture.”

Once patterning was completed, the structure was then washed away of eftover resin and placed it in a high-temperature vacuum furnace where the polymer could convert into carbon, resulting in an ultralight, nanoarchitected carbon material.

To test the resilience of the material, the team then performed microparticle impact experiments at MIT using laser-induced particle impact tests, which involve pointing an ultrafast laser through a glass slide coated with a thin film of gold, which itself is coated with a layer of microparticles—in this case, 14-micron-wide silicon oxide particles.

“As the laser passes through the slide, it generates a plasma, or a rapid expansion of gas from the gold, which pushes the silicon oxide particles out in the direction of the laser. This causes the microparticles to rapidly accelerate toward the target,” according to the institute.

Through a series of tests and the use of a high-speed camera, the team was able to capture the microparticles making impact with the nanoarchitected material.

“We show the material can absorb a lot of energy because of this shock compaction mechanism of struts at the nanoscale, versus something that’s fully dense and monolithic, not nanoarchitected,” said Portela.

Through additional testing, the team was eventually able to predict the kind of damage the material would sustain by using a dimensional analysis framework for characterizing planetary impacts and the Buckingham-Π theorem principle.

Moving forward, Portela said that the framework could be used to predict the impact resilience of other nanoarchitected materials and plans to explore various nanostructured configurations, as well as other materials beyond carbon, and ways to scale up their production—all with the goal of designing tougher, lighter protective materials.

“The knowledge from this work… could provide design principles for ultra-lightweight impact resistant materials [for use in] efficient armor materials, protective coatings, and blast-resistant shields desirable in defense and space applications,” said co-author Julia R. Greer, a professor of materials science, mechanics, and medical engineering at Caltech, whose lab led the material’s fabrication.

“Nanoarchitected materials truly are promising as impact-mitigating materials,” Portela added. “There’s a lot we don’t know about them yet, and we’re starting this path to answering these questions and opening the door to their widespread applications.”

The study has since been printed in the journal Nature Materials and was supported, in part, by the U.S. Office of Naval Research, the Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship, and the U.S. Army Research Office through the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at MIT.

Additional co-authors of the study include David Veysset, Yuchen Sun, and Keith A. Nelson, of MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies and the Department of Chemistry, and Dennis M. Kochmann of ETH Zürich.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Carbon dioxide; carbon nanotubes; Coating Materials; Coating Materials; Colleges and Universities; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Latin America; Nano and hybrid coatings; Nanotechnology; North America; Research; Research and development; Z-Continents

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