Starting from the idea of the Space Elevator, a theoretical transportation mode where transport modules move up and down a long cable that connects Earth to space, a team of MIT scientists has designed one of the strongest lightweight materials in existence, taking us one step closer to realizing that sci-fi dream and of course revolutionizing architecture and infrastructure right here on Earth, too.

The material is composed of graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon that’s considered to be the strongest of all known materials. The team succeeded in creating a 3D geometry out of graphene using a combination of heat and pressure. As detailed in a paper published the 6th of January in the journal Science Advances, they developed computational models of the form and then recreated it with graphene. They found that the samples of the porous material were ten times stronger than steel, even though they were only 5% as dense. The team was composed by Markus Buehler, head of MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, with researchers Zhao Qin, Gang Seob Jung, and Min Jeong Kang.The material could also have a positive environmental impact in architecture. Its porous structure and large surface area could act as a filter for water or air—which has potential applications in building green structures. Because it’s made of carbon, the material is chemically and mechanically stable. In the face of external environmental factors, like stronger storms and rising sea levels, these features could help make buildings more resilient.


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