Graphene is an elemental carbon made of one flat sheet of atoms that are arranged in a repeating hexagonal lattice. It is only one atom thick, which makes it weak and flimsy in its 2D form. Researchers at MIT were able to take the flimsy 2D material and turn it into 3D structures using a high resolution multi-material printer; making the graphene geometry incredibly strong—ten times the strength of steel but only a fraction of the weight. The material is electrically conductive and can be nearly transparent.
This article compares how folding a sheet of paper increases its strength the more and more you fold it; just as creating 3D printed objects with layers of graphene increases its ability to support substantial weight. MIT combined heat and pressure to compress small flakes of graphene to produce strong structures. The shapes had an enormous surface area in proportion to their own volume and were very strong.
Markus Buehler, head of MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental
Engineering (CEE), said that it’s not the material that’s the dominant discovery; it’s the geometry. He says that you could replace graphene material with any other mareial like polymers or metals or anything and use the same geometry to make that object have extreme strength and light weight.
Mearian, Lucas. “MIT Creates 3D Printed Graphene That’s Lighter than Air, 10X Stronger than Steel.” Computerworld, Computerworld, 9 Jan. 2017, www.computerworld.com/article/3155102/emerging-technology/mit-creates-3d-printed-graphene-thats-lighter-than-air-10x-stronger-than-steel.html.
“Graphene.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/graphene.
Curtis, Sophie. “Samsung Researchers Claim Graphene Breakthrough.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 4 Apr. 2014, www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/samsung/10745014/Samsung-researchers-claim-graphene-breakthrough.html.