New Material Tougher Than a Diamond Can Revolutionize Aerospace Industry

  • In general nano lettuce structures are porous.
  • Reaching specific strengths of 3.75 GPa g−1 cm3, they are the only cellular materials to surpass certain diamond systems.
  • During the testing phase a 3D laser printing process was utilized.

Researchers have created a new material that is harder than a diamond. This material could revolutionize the aerospace industry within the manufacturing sector. Thus far the new material has only been tested in a lab setting. The Nanolettuce structure is porous. The work consists of three-dimensional carbon struts and a connecting bracket. Due to its unique structure, these structures are incredibly strong and light.

Usually a nanolattice is based on a cylindrical frame, which can also be referred to as the radiation nanoparticle. Recently, however, researchers have created plate nanolattice structural analogues based on tiny plates.

Based on lab testing via a myriad of experiments, the plate approach promised a 639% increase in stiffness. That means that it would be 522% stronger in comparison to the regular version. Reaching specific strengths of 3.75 GPa g−1 cm3, they are the only cellular materials to surpass certain diamond systems.

During the testing phase a 3D laser printing process was utilized. The process is a  two-photon polymerization with direct laser recording. Two-photon polymerization is a non-linear optical process based on the simultaneous absorption of two photons in a photosensitive material (photoresist). This process changes the photosensitive material, i.e. it leads to a polymerization by activating so-called photo-initiators in the resist.   Hence, the laser recording is using controlled chemical reactions inside the laser beat to etch the shapes on the smallest scale possible. Then the  laser emits photons on a liquid resin that is sensitive to ultraviolet radiation, turning it into a solid polymer of a certain shape. Then the excess resin is removed, and the finished model is heated, fixed in place.

According to the paper titled “Plate-nanolattices at the theoretical limit of stiffness and strength”  several critical fabrication challenges are overcome, including removal of excess raw material pockets, design of printing strategies to ensure homogeneous material properties for plates of different orientations and thicknesses, and management/optimization of shrinkage during pyrolysis. Structures are characterized via micro-Raman spectroscopy, nano-computed tomography (nano-CT), and in situ mechanical compression.

The characteristics of the new material actually approaches the maximum theoretical rigidity and strength of materials of this type the so-called upper bounds of Hashin-Strikman and Suquet. These are the first real experiments that have proved that these theoretical limits can be reached in principle, although we are still far from being able to produce this material on an industrial scale. The Hashin-Shtrikman (HS) and Suquet upper bounds represent the theoretical topological stiffness and strength limits of isotropic cellular solids.

Overall, the promising new technology can revolutionize aerospace manufacturing and allow development of the new material that will be utilized in the airplanes, fighter jets and military equipment.

In conclusion, nanotechnology applications and research allows exciting new possibilities in the manufacturing field, whilst allowing to reach higher speeds and achieve lighter weight.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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