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The most resistant material in the world has been discovered, surpassing graphene by up to 10 times, Kevlar – and it’s not diamond!

Written by Valdemar Medeiros
Published 18/06/2024 às 00:19
The most resistant material in the world has been discovered, surpassing graphene by up to 10 times, Kevlar - and it's not diamond!
Photo: Boron Nitride scheme illustration

Discover Boron Nitride (h-BN), the most resistant material in the world, surpassing graphene by 10 times. This innovative material is even stronger than diamond, offering new possibilities for industrial and technological applications.

Graphene is widely known as one of the strongest materials in the world. However, it has a close relative called hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN), which is even tougher than diamond. While graphene is famous for its exceptional properties, hexagonal boron nitride stands out for its superior strength, opening up new possibilities for industrial and technological applications. Discover more about this incredible material that is redefining the limits of strength and durability.

Find out where the toughest material in the world is used

With the capacity to support up to 10 times more than graphene, hexagonal boron nitride is also a two-dimensional material, with just one atomic layer thick, and was even used by cosmetics industry in the 40s. It was abandoned due to its high price, however it resurfaced in the 90s, when technology made its production cheaper.

Currently, it is used in almost all cosmetics, due to its ability to absorb excess facial sebum and disperse pigments evenly, and as a protective layer in electronics, due to its ability to insulate against electricity and to withstand temperatures up to 1000ºC.

However, until then, the scientists had never understood the reason for the extreme mechanical resistance of hexagonal boron nitride, since this property, technically called toughness, is much greater than in materials with similar structures.

Yingchao Yang and other scientists from Singapore and the US have now finally carried out an experiment and repeated it for more than 1.000 hours, which revealed the secrets of the material that is more resistant than diamond.

How were the tests with the most resistant material in the world?

When Yang examined the tougher-than-diamond material as it was exposed to stress, it was observed that any breaks in the material branch out like forks in a road, rather than traveling straight through the material, meaning the fractures in the boron nitride have less likely to grow when more stress is applied.

Second Huajian Gao, whose team discovered the principle that governs the strength of metals and who more recently helped create a nanotech version of reinforced concrete, experiments show that boron nitride is the strongest material in the world.

What makes the work so exciting is that it reveals an intrinsic hardening mechanism in this material, which must be brittle as it is just one atom thick. This is unexpected, as there is often a trade-off between the strength and fragility of nanomaterials.

The team says this new understanding of the unique properties of the world's toughest material could pave the way for the design of new flexible materials for electronics.

Differences between boron nitride and graphene

Similar, both boron nitride and graphene are arranged in interconnected hexagons. However, the hexagons in graphene consist of only carbon atoms, while each hexagon in h-BN consists of three nitrogen atoms and three boron atoms.

This difference in composition is what causes a moving crack in the material tougher than diamond to branch, and this tendency to branch or turn means that it takes more energy for a crack to advance. By comparison, graphene breaks more easily because the fractures travel directly through the material, like a zipper.

Researchers say boron nitride's strength could make it an ideal option for making tear-resistant flexible electronics, such as wearable medical devices and foldable cellphones. It can also be added to strengthen compounds made from other two-dimensional materials, which tend to be brittle.

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Valdemar Medeiros

Journalist in training, specialist in creating content with a focus on SEO actions. Writes about the Automotive Industry, Renewable Energy and Science and Technology

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