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Supermaterial: 200X Stronger Than Steel, 1000X Lighter Than Paper

by Krishnendu K

Supermaterial: 200X Stronger Than Steel, 1000X Lighter Than Paper

January 5, 2021

History is full of accidental discoveries, and there’s a new addition to that list. A simple experiment with graphite and sticky tape has helped in the discovery of a new supermaterial!

Konstantin Novoselov Andre Geim 2010
Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov (left to right)

Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, scientists at the University of Manchester, experimented with graphite to identify if they could isolate graphite, the stuff present in your pencil, which is made of super-thin sheets of pure carbon stacked together.

Guess what they did to isolate a single sheet? They grabbed a roll of sticky tape! Holding this sticky tape led to discovering a harder than diamond material and carries both heat and electricity better than most of the materials on earth- a supermaterial.

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TIMES STRONGER THAN STEEL

How Did They Create the Supermaterial?

You put [sticky tape] on graphite or mica and peel the top layer. There are flakes of graphite that come off on your tape. Then you fold the tape in half and stick it to the flakes on top and split them again.

- Andre Geim

The procedure is repeated 10 or 20 times. In each instance, the flakes split into thinner and thinner bits. In the end, you’re left with fragile chips attached to the tape. The tape is dissolved, and everything goes into solution.

They Won a Nobel for It

Yes! The sticky-tape method worked! Geim and Novoselov were accorded the Nobel Prize in physics for discovering graphene, believed to be the strongest, the lightest, and most electrically conductive substance on earth.

A sheet of graphene appears like an atomic-scale honeycomb. Individual carbon atoms are arranged in a unique hexagonal pattern. Each carbon atom in a graphene sheet is covalently bonded to three other carbon items, the reason behind the material’s incredible strength.


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6 Reasons why Graphene is a Supermaterial

200 times stronger than steel by weight.

1,000 times lighter than paper.

98% transparent.

Conducts electricity better than any other known material at room temperature.

Converts light at any wavelength into a current.

Made from carbon, the fourth most-abundant element in the universe. . 

We found high levels of silicon contamination in commercially available graphene, with massive impacts on the material's performance.

- Andre Geim

When tested, the material’s ability to hold an electrical charge was epic. It was the most substantial ability so far observed for graphene and within sight of the material’s expected theoretical capacity.

This “supermaterial” can help us build longer-lasting smartphone batteries, faster microchips, electric cars, and more. Graphene-based batteries are promising five times faster charging speeds than lithium-ion, and the earliest smartphones to use it are expected to hit the markets in 2021.

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Vinayak bhasin January 6, 2021 - 10:54 am

Awesome article, just wanted to know how long will it take to actually use this ?

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