Move Over Graphene, Its Time For Carbyn

Graphene may have just been replaced as the strongest and stiffest material. Scientists led by Mingjie Lu at Houston University have calculated that a previously mysterious form of Carbon that has only been rarely found in space is stronger and stiffer than graphene (which is stronger than diamonds).

How strong? Well a diamond’s strength ranges between 2.5-6.5 X 10^7 Nm/kg, and graphene mostly beats that at 4.7-5.5 X 10^7 Nm/kg. Carbyn, as it is called, has a strength range between 6.0-7.5 X 10^7 Nm/kg. It blows away both diamonds and graphene. Its also stiffer, read: doesn’t sway like a piece of string in the wind. While graphene has a stiffness of 4.8 X 10^8 Nm/kg, carbyn has a stiffness of about 10^9 Nm/kg. For those not math inclined, carbyn is much stronger than the strongest previously known materials.

Previously, this material has only been observed as an energy signature in interstellar space, but a couple years ago, scientists apparently manufactured a chain that was at least 44 atoms long. However, the conventional chemist thought was that putting multiple strings together would lead to explosive results.

Despite this, the team conducted experiments on the mysterious material and found that while groups of chains can react, an activation barrier prevents consistent reactions, which means there is potential for multiple string substrates to be stable at room temperature, even. Should scientists be able to create carbyn with a more consistent activation barrier, or even figure out how to consistently improve stability, the ramifications of this material could be enormous. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one.

Source: arXiv (Cornell University Library)

Mike Lohnash