Mainland scientists have discovered a "super material" that is as light as a balloon yet as strong as metal, which could be developed by the mainland's military into armour that protects troops and tanks without sacrificing mobility, a study reports.
The foam-like material was created when tiny tubes of graphene were formed into a cellular structure that had the same stability as a diamond, said the study led by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Shanghai Institute of Ceramics.
Grapheme, an extremely thin sheet of carbon with extraordinary properties, has attracted great interest among researchers in recent years.
It is about 207 times stronger than steel by weight and able to conduct heat and electricity with very high efficiency. However, the new material was able to support something that was 40,000 times its own weight without bending, said the report in the latest issue of the journal, Advanced Materials.
One piece of the graphene foam withstood the impact of a blow that had a force of more than 14,500 pounds per square inch - almost as much pressure as is experienced at the deepest depth of the world's ocean - about 10.9km - known as Challenger Deep, in the Mariana Trench, off the coast of the US island of Guam. The Shanghai research team said the material could withstand more external shocks than other previously reported graphene materials.
It could also be squashed to just five per cent of its original size and still return to its original shape, and remained intact after the process was repeated 1,000 times. The properties of the new material meant one possible use could be as cushion under the surface of bulletproof vests and on the outside of tanks to absorb the shocks from incoming projectiles, the study said.