MIT Researchers Have Created Kevlar Like Molecular Nanofibers That Are Stronger Than Steel
Professor Julia Ortony and PhD student Yukio Cho and Ty Christoff-Tempesta have created a self-assembling nanofibers that is stronger than steel based off kevlar inspired molecules. Ortony has designed a new class of small molecules that spontaneously assemble into nanoribbons with strength far greater than steel. Until now, this hadn’t been possible outside of water, but Ortony, Cho and Tempesta have successfully demonstrated the ability to do have the nanofibers self-assemble and remains intact outside of water.
The success is the result of several years worth of research and work which scientist say will inspire a broad range of new applications and building materials for both things on earth and possibly in space. The results of Ortony’s new nanofibers were published on January 21, 2021 in Nature Nanotechnology.
This new substance incorporates the capability into three main components, an outer portion that likes to interact with water, aramids in the middle for binding, and an inner part that has a strong aversion to water. After testing dozens of molecules that met their strict requirements, they settled on their kevlar like nanofiber design. They then went about testing the strength and stiffness to understand how designing and aligning it similar to kevlar will affect its overall strength. The result was that the self-assembling nanofibers were far stronger than steel. The team then went about assembling the nearly invisible threads to see if they could be used an a useful manner and what their overall strength would be. They discovered that because the surface area per gram of material was over 200 square meters, it was a very strong material, in fact, it exceeds that of steel by over 20 times.