Technology Review has posted an article about Graphene, which has been thought to be the strongest material known since it was first isolated. Scientists were finally able to test it and confirm that it is.
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.
Now, before you tremble in fear at the thought of the next generation of battle robots covered in this stuff, as they noted that “Only a tiny sample can be perfect and superstrong”. What they ARE interested in using this for is as a replacement for silicon in transistors.
“The main liability concerning the microprocessing industry is strain,” says Julia Greer, a materials scientist at Caltech. Not only must the materials used to make transistors have good electrical properties, but they must also be able to survive the stresses of manufacturing processes and the heat generated by repeated operations. The processes used to pattern metal electrical connections onto microprocessors, for example, exert stresses that can cause chips to fail. And, says Greer, the main obstacle to making faster microprocessors is that “the heat is too much for materials to take.” Based on measurements of its strength, graphene transistors could take the heat.
That means they could stay in the kitchen, as well. Very nice. H/T to Gizmodo for the link to a neat article.