Graphene is the world's strongest material, even with defects

Professor James Hone said graphene is so strong that "it would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil, to break through a sheet of graphene the thickness of Saran Wrap." Andrew Shea for Columbia Engineering

Scientists have made a discovery that has the world one step closer to a television that rolls up like a poster. A new study out of Columbia University discovered that even with defects, graphene is still the strongest material in the world.

Large pieces of this strong material could be used for a variety of things in the future, including flexible electronics and strengthening components to create composites to replace carbon fiber.

Graphene, in its perfect form, is a made up of a single atomic layer of carbon, arranged in a honeycomb lattice.

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

Previously, its was thought that in order for graphene to exhibit this intense strength, it would need to be pristine condition in one large piece, but this study proves those thoughts false. Researchers showed that even if smaller pieces of crystalline grains were stitched together to form the graphene it was almost as strong as the actual solid material.

"Our findings clearly correct the mistaken consensus that grain boundaries of graphene are weak," said Horne in a statement. "This is great news because graphene offers such a plethora of opportunities both for fundamental scientific research and industrial applications."

The new study proved that when pulled together into a larger pane and tested at the grain, graphene was around 90 percent as strong as the original.

"This is an exciting result for the future of graphene, because it provides experimental evidence that the exceptional strength it possesses at the atomic scale can persist all the way up to samples inches or more in size," says Hone. "This strength will be invaluable as scientists continue to develop new flexible electronics and ultrastrong composite materials."

  • Shoshana Davis

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