Strong Materials, Making Strong Materials with Nanotechnology

The following survey introduces you to nanotechnology techniques being used to produce strong materials:

Researchers at MIT have designed a structure based on graphene shapes called gyroids that they predict will have 10 times the strenght of steel while having only 5% the density of steel.

Researchers at UCLA have demonstated a method to make a strong, lightweight metal by adding ceramic silicon carbide nanoparticles to magnesium.

ArcelorMital is producing a kind of steel that contains nanoparticles. This material allows them to make thinner gauge, lighter beams and plates. These steel beams and plates are about same weight as aluminum, but can be produced a lower cost. ArcelorMital is marketing this light weight steel to car manufacturers.

Eagle Windpower has used an epoxy containing carbon nanotubes can be used to produce nanotube-polymer composite windmill blades. This results in a strong but lightweight blade, which makes longer windmill blades practical. These longer blades increase the amount of electricity generated by each windmill.

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a method to straighten the carbon nanotubes as the nanotube-polymer composite is being formed. They found that straightening the nanotubes increased the tensile strength of the nanotube-polymer composite, as well as improving the electrical and thermal conductivity.

Avalon Aviation incorporated carbon nanotubes in a carbon fiber composite engine cowling on an aerobatic aircraft to increase the strength to weight ratio. The engine cowling is highly stressed components in this aircraft, adding carbon nanotubes to the composite allowed them to reduce the weight without weakening the component.

Researchers at MIT have developed a method  to add carbon nanotubes aligned perpendicular to the carbon fibers, called nanostiching. They believe that having the nanotubes perpendicular to the carbon fibers help hold the fibers together, rather than depending upon epoxy, and significanly improve the properties of the composite.

Researchers at North Carolina University have shown how to make magnesium alloy stronger. They introduced nano-spaced stacking faults in the crystalline structure of the alloy. The stacking faults prevent defects in the structure of the alloy from spreading, making the alloy stronger. The researchers believe that the techniques they used to strenghten the alloy can be implemented in existing plants, allowing a fast implementation.

 Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that adding graphene to epoxy composites may result in stronger/stiffer components than epoxy composites using a similar weight of carbon nanotubes. Graphene appears to bond better to the polymers in the epoxy, allowing a more effective coupling of the graphene into the structure of the composite. This property could result in the manufacture of components with higher strength-to-weight ratios for such uses as windmill blades or aircraft components.


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