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Few disclaimers: this article and the facts/opinions discussed are based off of my own research and discoveries. I am not at all an expert on these materials like the scientists in the respective R&D companies. I hope you enjoy my writing.
The promised and desired uses of these materials have a wide range of theoretical uses, some sounding very normal and standard to our time and technology; for example structural supports, water filters, stronger threads, more efficient batteries, and more efficient conductive wires. Other uses sound more like an idea out of a sci-fi movie, being more rapid response prosthetics, space elevators, and bullet proof clothes. What makes these materials so special? And why haven't these materials become so widespread like plastics did upon their discovery?
What is a "wonder-Material" exactly? What does it mean? Well if you break down the word "wonder," according to Dictionary.com it means to think or speculate curiously But when I looked up the word as a whole on Google the object is described as a material that at nanoscale holds different and multiple properties (not found in nature) than its base material at a larger scale.
Going off of these definitions, you can assume metamaterials are a man-made substance, like most of the materials in the Periodic Table, but what is so significant about the structural make up of the material that it changes the substance's "natural" properties?
Diving further into research I discovered that wonder materials are substances that are engineered by taking an element at its purest form (such as graphite), and breaking it down to its nanoscale form. This element's carbon atoms are then arranged in repeating patterns at such a small size that the properties of the material changes, being that the material gets its properties from its structural make up, and not from its base material.
Seeing how the material obtains its "wonderous" properties from its molecular structure and size it has been hard to create large structures made from this thing. But as you can see in the video, researchers are starting to discover ways to get around the problem of scaling.
Graphene (from the video) is not the only wonder material there is. There are many other experimental materials just like graphene with just as many uses too. These materials include, but are not limited to, Carbon Nano Tubes, Aerogels, Spider silk, and Nanocellulose. All of these materials have been tested to be stronger than steel, and have some sort of "wondrous" use to them just like graphene has.
What is graphene exactly? The simplest way to put it is that it's a thin layer (one atom thick) of graphite—yes, the same stuff that you have inside your pencil. What makes this material so strong is the hexagonal arrangement of the carbon atoms. While its big base material graphite is brittle and easily broken, graphene has a tensile strength 100 times stronger than steel. What makes graphene even more amazing is how thin, flexible, light, permeable, AND conductive it is, making it a promising material for flexible batteries/electronics, internal biological sensors, and water filters. (Digital Trends)
Carbon Nano Tubes(CNT)
(Basically Graphene rolled into tubes) Carbon nanotubes are another wonder material not yet fully understood. Being one billionth of a meter (10,000 times smaller than a human hair), they resemble similar properties of graphene (being stronger than steel, conductive, light, and flexible), but now researchers are able to make threads out of these long forest-like fibers and not thin sheets. With properties like these, researchers say CNTs can be used for tasks relating to solar panels, space elevators, thin ropes stronger than steel, better wiring for electronics, and stronger implants.
My interest in these materials is to know how they can interact together, as well as the potential of using these substances in a unified system, what limits they can over come, and how they can reinvent the wheel of science and engineering, building structures far more advanced than the technology found in your phones. Hints why I conduct experiments with these unknown materials, observing their interactions with outside stimuli, mixing them with other elements to see if they still retain their properties, pushing the boundaries, seeing what I can utilize these strange, wondrous new materials for.
I really do appreciate you taking the time to read my article, and taking an interest in my personal research. If you enjoyed this read, feel free to share with your friends, tip, and or read the articles I'll be writing in the future. Thank you very much! I hope this read was worth your time.