Move over graphene; get outta here diamond. There's a new carbon supermaterial in town, and it's stronger and stiffer than either of you.
Researchers from Rice University in Houston have calculated the properties of a new form of carbon that promises more strength and stiffness than any other known material. Called Carbyne, it's a chain of carbon atoms linked either by alternate triple and single bonds, or just by consecutive double bonds. And it's quite something.
Their mathematical models predict that Carbyne is a little stronger than both graphene and diamond, and around twice as stiff as the stiffest known materials. It's also fairly flexible — a bit like a strand of DNA.
Carbyne is itself currently highly elusive; astronomers once thought they detected it in interstellar space, but on this planet it was only synthesised a few years ago in chains up to 44 atoms long. Until now it's been thought of as too reactive to reliably create and study.
But, perhaps most interestingly, the research also suggests that, while Carbyne might be highly reactive, in certain forms it could comfortably last in the lab for days. If the predicted properties can actually be harnessed and put to use, graphene may just have had its day. [arXiv via Technology Review]
Image credit: Carbon from Shutterstock