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Friday, August 1, 2014

World's strongest material acts like a tiny transistor

Meet graphene’s one-dimensional cousin, carbyne - the newest contender for the strongest material in the world.
Image: Vasilii Artyukhov/Rice University
Graphene is a pure carbon material that’s just one atom thick. It’s 100 times stronger than steel, incredibly light, and it’s super-efficient at conducting heat and electricity. It’s a true wonder-material, but now there’s a new wonder-material in town: carbyne.
While graphene is made up of a two-dimensional layer of atoms, carbyne is made up of a single chain of carbon atoms, and according to Sarah Zhang at Gizmodo, by a recent measure, it's the new strongest material in the world.
Researchers at Rice University in the US have been investigating the potential of carbyne, and through computer modelling discovered that if they stretched this material by just 3 percent, it becomes an insulator instead of a conductor. This switch between insulating and conducting is exactly what transistors do, and transistors are the essential building blocks of modern electronics. This means carbyne could be used to make minuscule transistors to fit into new nanoscale electronics for use in medicine or to develop new energy solutions.
"But before we get too ahead of ourselves, it is important to note that carbyne is very difficult to make,” cautions Zhang at Gizmodo. "Graphene, on the other hand, is something you can make with Scotch tape. Carbyne is sometimes found in compressed graphite, but scientists have only been able to synthesise it in chains 44 atoms long so far. The new study of carbyne’s properties is based on computer models rather than physical chains - nevertheless, the results are cool enough to be worth pondering."
The researchers published their findings in the journal Nano Letters.
Source: Gizmodo