Saturday, September 13, 2014

moore's law in material sciences will yield what is indistinguishable from magic...,

technologyreview |  A new type of material, made up of nanoscale struts crisscrossed like the struts of a tiny Eiffel Tower, is one of the strongest and lightest substances ever made.

If researchers can figure out how to make the stuff in large quantities, it could be used as a structural material for making planes and trucks, as well as in battery electrodes.

Researchers led by Caltech materials scientist Julia Greer found that by carefully designing nanoscale struts and joints, they could make ceramics, metals, and other materials that can recover after being crushed, like a sponge. The materials are very strong and light enough to float through the air like a feather. The work is published today in the journal Science.

In conventional materials, strength, weight, and density are correlated. Ceramics, for example, are strong but also heavy, so they can’t be used as structural materials where weight is critical—for example, in the bodies of cars. And when ceramics fail, they tend to fail catastrophically, shattering like glass.

But at the nanoscale the same rules do not apply. In this size range, the structural and mechanical properties of ceramics become less tied to properties such as weight, and they can be altered more precisely.

“For ceramics, smaller is tougher,” says Greer, who was named one of MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35 in 2008 for her work on nanoscale mechanics. This means that nanoscale trusses made from ceramic materials can be both very light—unsurprising, since they are mostly air—and extremely strong.