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MIT invents new stronger-than-steel polymer that can be mass-produced 'easily' to toughen phones, cars, or even buildings

MIT's new tough-as-steel polymer (image: MIT)
MIT's new tough-as-steel polymer (image: MIT)
MIT researchers have managed to create a new polymer material called 2DPA-1 that has twice the yield strength of steel and up to six times the deformation resistance of bulletproof glass. The unorthodox sheet polymer can be easily spun in mass quantities and used as ultradurable coating for phones and cars, or even as a building material.

MIT researchers have managed to create a lightweight polymer that is tougher than steel and can "easily" be produced in mass quantities. The so-called 2DPA-1 polymer has a sixth of steel's density, yet it requires twice the force to be broken. This is why the scientists think that the new material can ultimately be used as thin but ultrahard protective coating for phones or car parts. The polymer also has up to six times the deformation resistance of bulletproof glass hence can be used for lightweight but extremely shock-absorbent barriers, or even in the construction of bridges and buildings. Another interesting characteristic of the new 2DPA-1 material is that it is impermeable to gases or liquids, therefore providing extra corrosion protection to those eventual car parts it would be applied over.

In order to pull off such a polymer, the MIT team from the Chemistry Department succeeded in making its molecules stick together in a two-dimensional sheet-like structure called polyaramide, a feat so far thought to be impossible and decades in the making. The material was formed by those molecular chain "disks" that then stacked on top of each other held by very strong hydrogen bonds that wouldn't even let gases pass through, let alone liquids. According to Michael Strano, the Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT who is the senior author of the study:

Instead of making a spaghetti-like molecule, we can make a sheet-like molecular plane, where we get molecules to hook themselves together in two dimensions. This mechanism happens spontaneously in solution, and after we synthesize the material, we can easily spin-coat thin films that are extraordinarily strong.

Mass-producing the light but tough polymer is simply a matter of increasing the quantity of the ingredients that go into spinning it, claim the researchers. The ability to produce the 2DPA-1 material economically and at scale is at least as important as its discovery, if not more, as there are many promising but cost-prohibitive materials that haven't ventured outside of a lab for that particular reason. The new tough-as-steel polymer research has been sponsored by the Center for Enhanced Nanofluidic Transport which is in turn funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, and the Army Research Laboratory.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2022 02 > MIT invents new stronger-than-steel polymer that can be mass-produced 'easily' to toughen phones, cars, or even buildings
Daniel Zlatev, 2022-02- 5 (Update: 2022-02- 5)