Thursday, July 17, 2008


(Image from Technology Review)

Yes, I do remember that I was making fun of carbon fiber addiction not too long ago, but this article is simply too good to pass up.

Technology Review has a piece about graphene, the building block upon which nanotubes and Bucky balls are based. Graphene is simply the strongest material ever tested.

How strong? I'll let them describe it:

Jeffrey Kysar and James Hone, mechanical-engineering professors at Columbia University, tested graphene's strength at the atomic level by measuring the force that it took to break it. They carved one-micrometer-wide holes into a silicon wafer, placed a perfect sample of graphene over each hole, and then indented the graphene with a sharp probe made of diamond. Such measurements had never been taken before because they must be performed on perfect samples of graphene, with no tears or missing atoms, say Kysar and Hone.

Hone compares his test to stretching a piece of plastic wrap over the top of a coffee cup, and measuring the force that it takes to puncture it with a pencil. If he could get a large enough piece of the material to lay over the top of a coffee cup, he says, graphene would be strong enough to support the weight of a car balanced atop the pencil.

Regular CycleDog readers will know where I'm going with this. Graphene would be an ideal material for a bicycle frame if the manufacturing difficulties could be overcome. The article details the usual failure mode for this advanced material. It will break due to imperfections, tiny flaws caused by missing atoms. Still, there was a time when carbon fiber was unimaginably expensive. If we're lucky and we live long enough, maybe we'll see aerospace and cycling applications for graphene.

(Found via Gizmodo)



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