New Polymer Twice as Strong as Steel at a Fraction of Its Density

MIT researchers have created a two-dimensional polymer that self-assembles into sheets with a yield strength twice that of steel, even though the material only has about one-sixth of its density. Applications include lightweight, durable coatings for car parts or cell phones, or as a building material for bridges or other structures. Until this breakthrough, scientists believed it was impossible to induce polymers to form 2D sheets, reports Anne Trafton from the MIT News Office. Polymers typically form one-dimensional, spaghetti-like chains, and after decades of research, the scientific consensus was that it would be impossible to maintain a 2D sheet-like structure. One reason is that if just one monomer were to rotate up or down, out of the plane of the growing sheet, the material would begin expanding in three dimensions and the sheet-like structure would be lost, writes Trafton. 

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