SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Researchers in Japan have invented a new shock-resistant material that can withstand extreme temperatures, which they hope can be used in the engines of spacecraft and cars.
Made entirely of carbon, it can flow and stretch slowly like thick honey and spring back to its original form, said materials scientist Xu Ming at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan.
“It looks like a metal sponge that is porous, it is made from trillions of entangled carbon nanotubes,” she said in a telephone interview. “When you stretch and release it, it can come back slowly (to its original shape).”
A report on their invention was published on Friday in Science magazine.
Grown in a mixture of silicon, iron and water, the carbon nanotubes are 5 nanometers in diameter, and can retain their form and function within a huge temperature range of between -196 and 1,000 degrees Celsius in an oxygen-free environment.
A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.
“This material is totally new and unique. It can potentially be used in space, in fuel tanks of spacecraft and rockets, in car engines to isolate vibration,” Xu said.
“There is no other material showing such stable properties ... unlike rubber which cannot conduct electricity, our material has electronic connectivity, so it can be used in more applications,” Xu said.
Reporting by Tan Ee Lyn; Editing by Alex Richardson