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Step aside Superman, steel is no competition for this new material!

10 May 2018

Specially arranged nano-sized cellulose fibres are the strongest material of them all, in a move that might cause some to re-name Superman the 'man of cellulose.'

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Although technology has rapidly advanced, researchers are still playing catch-up with nature. Recently, scientists have been trying to mimic the architecture of natural materials on the nanoscale level with the hopes that it would translate to larger-scale strength. For example, a strong, stiff cell wall layer in wood is made up of cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs), and the organisation of this material has served as inspiration for the creation of strong, macroscale substances. But poor adhesion and un-aligned components have prevented researchers from realising this goal. So, Daniel Soderberg and colleagues sought to overcome these limitations.

The team used flow-assisted assembly to organise CNFs into a near-perfect alignment within macroscale fibres. Even the weakest fibre they made with the method was stronger than other CNF fibres previously reported. Most importantly, the macroscale fibres were stronger than metal, alloys and glass fibres. They are both stronger and eight times stiffer than dragline spider silk, which is the gold standard for lightweight biopolymers, at the same specific strength. The researchers say that the material could be useful in many load-bearing applications, such as light-weight bio-based composites for cars and bikes, as well as high-performance medical implants.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation through the Wallenberg Wood Science Centre at KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

Materials provided by American Chemical Society

The original article can be found on ScienceDaily 

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