Researchers at the University of Technology Sydney have created a new material that is lighter, less dense, harder, and stronger than steel. But this material isn’t one of those breakthroughs that only sounds good on paper. It is paper, and it could be a game-changer for materials science if it can live up to researchers’ hopes.
This graphene paper is constructed of graphite reformed by chemical processes into monolayer hexagonal carbon lattices stacked as thin as a sheet of paper, and it is remarkably strong. To quote a press release from UTS:Compared to steel, the prepared GP is six times lighter, five to six times lower density, two times harder with 10 times higher tensile strength and 13 times higher bending rigidity.
That’s no incremental improvement on the qualities of steel, but a huge leap forward in terms of overall material strength (plus, like paper, it is flexible). And because it is graphene, it is also imbued with some interesting electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties.
But perhaps best of all, graphene paper not outrageously difficult or expensive to manufacture, and as such it could have huge implications for the aviation and automotive industries, where manufacturers have already been turning to composites and carbon fiber materials to cut weight and thus increase fuel economies.