HEFEI -- A Chinese research team announced that it has developed a "super material" with superior properties to ceramics and metals, promising to be a greener alternative for engineering plastics in fields of automobiles and aerospace.
According to a new report published in the international journal Science Advances, the density of the new material is only one-sixth of that of steel. With outstanding strength and toughness, it is capable of withstanding temperatures from minus 120 C to 150 C.
The research team was led by Yu Shuhong, a professor with the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, capital of the eastern province of Anhui.
Yu said the new material was created on cellulose nanofiber (CNF), one of the most abundant all-green resources that can be derived from plants or produced by bacteria.
Less than one ten-thousandth of a human hair in diameter, the CNF at the microscale is stronger than steel. However, macroscale materials composed of the CNFs become much weaker.
Therefore, how to construct high-performance CNF materials remains challenging for global scientists.
The researchers found that the new material's superior properties come from a 3D nanofiber network produced from glucose by biosynthesis methods. It shows a multilayer structure at the micron level.
"(The structure is) similar to a layer stack of spider webs," team member Guan Qingfang told Xinhua.
Guan said when subjected to an impact of 100 kph, the structure can instantly absorb and dissipate the huge amounts of energy, without deformation or cracks, which is superior to ceramics, plastics and aluminum alloy.
According to the research, the material could be used for automobiles, aircraft and precision instruments, particularly for aerospace applications, such as optical lens bracket for the lunar rover which requires lightweight, high strength and stability under extreme temperatures.
Cellulose also made the material cheaper, greener and possible to replace engineering plastics, the researchers said.