Carbyne Beats Graphene As World’s Strongest Material: What Can The ‘Super’ Substance Do For Engineering?

By Philip Ross on August 20, 2013 12:44 PM EDT

carbyn
The world’s strongest molecule is carbine (not pictured), which scientists now know is twice as strong as graphene and diamond. (Photo: Flickr/Caroline Davis2010)

Carbyne has beat out graphene as the world's strongest material. The new form of carbon was discovered years ago, but its odd properties were relatively unknown until now.

A new study shows that carbyne, made up of a chain of carbon atoms linked by alternate triple and single bonds or consecutive double bonds, is actually twice as strong as graphene, and exhibits unusual characteristics that make it appealing for a wide range of uses.

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Scientists have long believed graphene to be the world's strongest material. Its honeycomb structure makes it 200 times stronger than structural steel, and it can be made into lightweight and durable products like tennis racquets.

"It would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil, to break through a sheet of graphene the thickness of Saran Wrap," James Hone, a professor of engineering at Columbia University, said in a 2008 report on graphene.

But researchers at Rice University in Texas have quantified just how strong carbyne is, and found that it's actually stronger than graphene. The researchers studied how carbyne reacted to bending, tension and torsion.

They discovered that the "supermaterial" is extremely stiff and is stronger than anything they've seen before. Crazy Engineers notes that carbyne is "almost impossible to stretch, chemically stable and yet, flexible."

Carbyne, like graphene, is just one atom thick. That means it has an extremely large surface area; according to Extreme Tech, a single gram of graphene has a surface area of roughly five tennis courts.

Carbyne isn't a novel substance. The Verge reports that scientists have previously detected carbyne in interstellar dust and meteorites. Synthesizing it here on Earth, however, has proved difficult. It has taken lots of time and research to make a strand of carbyne just 44 atoms long.

So what can the "super" substance do for engineering?  

Extreme Tech notes the new world's strongest material can be used for a number of things, from nanoelectronics to spintronic devices.

It could also be used to store hydrogen and to make higher density batteries.

"Tack some calcium atoms on the end, which like to mop up spare hydrogen molecules, and suddenly you have a high-density, reversible hydrogen storage sponge," Extreme Tech reports.

Read more from iScience Times:

Aerographite: The World's Lightest Material is 99% Air

Improving on the Amazing: Scientists Seek New Conductors for Metamaterials

Scientists Discover Bilayer Structure in Efficient Solar Material

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