A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has created a polymer that has twice the yield strength of steel, but only a sixth of the density.
The plastic could have a range of uses, from bridges and buildings to automobile or electronics manufacturing.
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 thingsMichael Strano, MIT professor of chemical engineering
The material was created using a polymerization technique that generates an impermeable sheet called a polyaramide, which was previously though impossible to make. The material, known as 2DPA-1, is six times stronger than bulletproof glass and could be used to add a protective coating to surfaces.
Michael Strano, MIT professor of chemical engineering, said: “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.
“This mechanism happens spontaneously in solution, and after we synthesise the material, we can easily spin-coat thin films that are extraordinarily strong.”
Strano continues: “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.
“It has very unusual properties and we’re very excited about that.”
The researchers have filed for two patents relating to the manufacturing process for 2DPA-1. Technical details are available to read in a paper co-authored by Prof Strano and published in the journal Nature.