By Will Soutter
A recent paper submitted to preprint library arXiv by researchers from Rice University provides the first complete mechanical modelling of carbyne - a promising form of carbon which could outperform diamond, nanotubes and even graphene, taking the title of the strongest material in existence.
Graphene could lose its title as the world's strongest material, following a new study on a different carbon allotrope called carbyne. Image credit: Photos.com.
The allotropes of carbon have been the subject of much excitement in recent years, due to the incredible mechanical and electronic properties they offer, with potential applications in electronics, along with many other fields.
But now yet another form of carbon is causing a buzz - carbyne. Whilst it has been known about for some time, and has been synthesized in limited size and quantity by a variety of methods, it's mechanical, electrical and chemical properties have never been investigated in this level of detail.
The findings of the theoretical modelling study are quite astonishing. The tensile stiffness of a carbyne chain would be around double that of a carbon nanotube or sheet of graphene, and more than three times that of diamond. It's specific strength is also higher than any other known material, and it has a colossal predicted Young's modulus of 32.7 TPa - over 30 times than of graphene.
One major concern of nanotechnology engineers who might hope to use carbyne in the real world is the material's stability.
Chemists who have have managed to synthesize the material in the past predict that it will be unstable at normal temperatures - reacting with itself explosively and preventing any mainstream applications.
The new study puts these fears to rest, however - the Rice researchers showed that single carbyne chains are indeed stable. Condensed blocks of the material will react to some extent, but should remain intact at room temperature for at least several days. So whilst some cooling may be required for many applications, the numbers are certainly more encouraging than was thought previously.
This comprehensive theoretical study will no doubt give rise to a flurry of activity as scientists attempt to synthesize carbyne in longer chains and higher volumes, to hopefully prove that the material lives up to these promising predictions!