Here comes the "superhero" of the plastic world.
"Nature" magazine recently announced a result that was considered "impossible" –
Scientists at MIT have developed a new material called 2DPA-1, which is 4-6 times stronger than bulletproof glass and twice as hard as steel, but only 1/6 of the density.
Most surprisingly, it's only as light as regular plastic.
▲ Picture from: Fastcompany
That is, it is extremely strong and extremely thin .
Also, it's easy to mass-produce.
This also means that this "super plastic" is very close to everyone.
The revolutionary progress of materials science is a subversive change for all walks of life. Naturally, it also covers all aspects of our lives.
Let the "super plastic" fly for a while
When it's used on a phone —
As a lightweight and durable coating, it makes your phone more resistant to wear and tear.
▲ Picture from: Andrew Moore-Crispin
When it becomes an everyday tool—
The plastic bags we usually use can be made into more zippered bags and reused, and they are more durable than cloth bags and leather bags.
When packing some specific items, don't worry about the plastic bag being punctured casually.
▲ Picture from: xxxlojel
When it's used in a car —
As a material for making cars, it can make cars lighter, which in turn reduces energy consumption and lasts longer.
As a barrier coating, it protects the metal or steel structure in a car, giving it a longer lifespan.
Because its density is so low that it is impermeable to gas, this barrier coating can also be turned into a "paint" or industrial coating that can be applied to items in the home that need it, preventing them from oxidizing, rusting, and rotting.
like a natural barrier.
This will be its first and most immediate commercial application.
▲ Picture from: IAMSPEEDRUNNER
When it's used on buildings—
The performance of this "super plastic" is better than that of steel and other materials. Whether it is building bridges or buildings, it can reduce the use of materials compared to the past.
At the same time, making this material is simpler than making both glass and steel, which reduces energy consumption and labor costs.
In other words, it is more environmentally friendly and sustainable.
▲ Picture from: CDMG
When facing all walks of life –
It can be turned into a shield and a body armor, which can make the police travel easier and safer; in aerospace equipment, it can also reduce the weight and ensure the launch quality…
▲ Picture from: "Alien Cataclysm"
It is conceivable that its powerful features will also be used in more places for our necessities of life.
How is "super plastic" made?
The "superplastic" 2DPA-1 is a two-dimensional polymer.
Until now, polymers have usually only been able to form one-dimensional structures.
Our everyday plastics, rubbers, and glass are all polymers. They are essentially single molecular chains that are connected together flat like spaghetti. When new molecules are added to their ends, they grow and expand like a cake in an oven. , like and then becomes a three-dimensional object.
▲ Picture from: SHUTTERSTOCK
This allows them to be very light, but also exposes a weakness – there are gaps between the molecules through which gases can pass.
That's why when you put a bag of spicy strips in a plastic bag, you can smell the tempting smell from the outside too.
Scientists have been trying to study two-dimensional polymers for decades, but have failed.
Because as long as there is a single monomer that does not move according to the rules and starts to deviate from the left and right to rotate, the flaky structure will be destroyed, and finally it will expand into a "fluffy cake".
This time, MIT Professor Michael S. Strano and his colleagues have finally broken the limit.
They created the new material with a compound: melamine.
Melamine has a carbon and nitrogen ring structure, and the monomers can grow in two dimensions to form disks, which are stacked on each other, and the hydrogen bonds between the layers are stably connected, and the structure becomes very strong.
It's like all the children sitting in a row on the playground, holding hands, then leaning against each other, and locked together like Lego blocks, and can't be separated again.
Thus, new two-dimensional polymers were born.
This high-strength material is not only very light, but also very hard, harder than steel.
Because the monomers are firmly locked together, neither gas nor water molecules can penetrate, and the airtightness is very strong, which is why it acts as a natural barrier and is airtight.
What's even more surprising is that these polymers assemble on their own.
Just need a solution, in which the monomers can stack themselves into sheets, and one can directly synthesize more composite materials.
Now, researchers are already working on new applications for coatings and membranes, and when further research is done on structural adjustments, new generations of polymers for nanofiltration and gas separation can be produced.
The future applications of "super plastics" are limitless.
What kind of "future plastic" are we waiting for?
Now, everyone's impression of plastic may not be very good.
Plastic straws inserted in the nostrils of sea turtles, plastic garbage that cannot be degraded for hundreds of years, plastic products that cannot be recycled and can only be reused with difficulty, and the billowing waste gas from burning plastic…
There is data showing that:
- If the life cycle of plastics were a country, it would be the 5th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world ;
- According to data released by the United Nations, the world consumes 500 billion plastic bags every year, and 1 million plastic bottles are sold every minute ;
- If we don't adjust the way we produce and use plastic, the planet will have 12 billion tons of plastic waste in 2050.
▲ Picture from: SciTechDaily
Therefore, from Coca-Cola, the largest plastic polluting company, to increase the recycling of plastics, to various new consumer brands that advocate green environmental protection, the supply chain and products are more sustainable, and even major supermarkets and convenience stores have begun to "Plastic limit".
But the reason why plastic is so hard to get rid of is because it really works so well.
Therefore, it is necessary to solve the problem from the source.
There are already many companies replacing plastics with new materials.
Start-up Ecovative uses mushrooms as packaging material , in which mycelium can grow to a specific size and shape, and also facilitates degradation and recycling.
Allbirds, which has always emphasized environmental protection, uses cashmere for shoes , recycled bottles for shoelaces, and the packaging is replaced by 90% recycled cardboard.
At the half-marathon held in London last year, athletes ate a "water polo capsule" called "Ooho" halfway, because the packaging was not plastic, but made of seaweed and plant ingredients.
Someone even dissolved the DNA strands of salmon sperm in water to form a soft, stretchable "hydrogel" that the team called "DNA plastic."
"Plastic substitutes" are a way to ease, but there are many places where real plastics cannot be replaced.
So on another track, new plastics were born one after another.
Everyone is more familiar with the current biodegradable plastics.
"Biodegradable" plastic, in terms of terminology, is generally understood as throwing plastic in the ground, and it will disappear automatically after a while.
But in reality, it still needs enough time to degrade, possibly hundreds of years.
This doesn't really make much sense, after all, everything is biodegradable for a certain period of time.
▲ Biodegradable plastic. Image from: Dezeen
There is also "compostable plastic", which you may think will disappear in the soil and make the soil just nutritious.
But actually, it only works in special composters. And even if this plastic is readily available, we can't throw it all in the right soil.
Technology is advancing rapidly.
A startup in the San Francisco Bay Area has also created "compostable plastic" called Intropic Materials , which allows people to pot plants and turn them into fertilizers at home.
▲ Picture from: Adam Lau/Berkeley Engineering
Once these plastics become widespread, we can throw them away without guilt.
The aforementioned "super plastics" can be applied to more new fields and even replace steel and other materials.
This plastic war has only just begun.
The title picture comes from: "Alien Cataclysm"
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