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KIT scientists create the smallest stable lattice structure

02 February 2016

Featured in the journal, Nature Materials, the struts and braces of this lattice are made of glassy carbon and are less than 1µm long and 200nm in diameter.

The overall size of the lattice is about 10µm (image: J Bauer / KIT)

This tiny stable lattice structure was initially constructed via 3D laser lithography. The structure was subsequently shrunk and vitrified by a process of pyrolysis - believed to be a first in the manufacture of micro-structured lattices. The object is exposed to temperatures of around 900°C in a vacuum furnace, which causes chemical bonds to re-orientate themselves.

Except for carbon, all elements escape from the resist. The unordered carbon remains in the shrunk lattice structure in the form of glassy carbon. The resulting structures were tested for stability under pressure by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) researchers.

“According to the results, load-bearing capacity of the lattice is very close to the theoretical limit and far above that of unstructured glassy carbon,” says KIT's Professor Oliver Kraft, co-author of the Nature Materials paper. “Diamond is the only solid having a higher specific stability.”

Micro-structured materials are often used for insulation or shock absorption. Open-pored materials may be used as filters. Glassy carbon is a high-technology material made of pure carbon. Combining glassy, ceramic properties with graphite properties, it is of interest for use in electrodes of batteries or electrolysis systems.


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