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One of the World’s Strongest Materials Looks Like a Chunk of Coral

It's made of 3D printed graphene, the ultra-strong and lightweight carbon nanomaterial. And it could be great for building stuff in space.

Hydraulic presses aren't just for

smashing Legos and Barbies

and making

fake teeth explode

. They're also for real science—although, exploding objects are still part of that, too.

Engineers at MIT designed a geometrical configuration that can withstand high pressure at five percent the density of steel, with 10 times the strength. They created this confection-like neon pink stuff by compressing small flakes of graphene and 3D printing it into a shape resembling coral, with high surface area and low density.

Two dimensional materials, at only an atom's thickness—and graphene, in particular—are typically very strong and conductive. But their experiments found that it didn't matter what the material itself was made from, more that it was formed into this coral-esque shape. Adjusting the thickness of the material gave interesting results: thicker walls burst suddenly under pressure, but thinner walls allowed the pores to crumple gradually, maintaining its shape longer.

They imagine this material building lightweight bridges, insulation and infrastructure, but its applications aren't confined to Earth. One of the researchers, Zhao Qin, told Fast Company that he foresees its use in space engineering. Its extremely lightweight strength could make it valuable in colonies on other planets.

Until it starts showing up on the walls of your Martian home, enjoy watching it explode in the press.

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