Researchers at Delft University of Technology, under the leadership of assistant professor Richard Norte, have unveiled a groundbreaking material that not only rivals the strength of diamonds and graphene but surpasses the yield strength of Kevlar, renowned for its use in bulletproof vests. This remarkable material, known as amorphous silicon carbide (a-SiC), holds significant promise for the field of material science.

Amorphous silicon carbide exhibits exceptional strength, with a yield strength 10 times greater than Kevlar. Beyond its strength, this material showcases mechanical properties crucial for vibration isolation on microchips, making it ideal for the production of ultra-sensitive microchip sensors.

The potential applications of amorphous silicon carbide are diverse, ranging from ultra-sensitive microchip sensors and advanced solar cells to groundbreaking space exploration and DNA sequencing technologies. The combination of its strength and scalability makes it an exceptionally promising material.

Explaining the unique characteristic of “amorphous,” Norte compares it to crystalline materials like diamonds, where atoms are arranged in a regular pattern. In contrast, amorphous materials resemble a randomly piled set of Legos, lacking a consistent atomic arrangement. Despite this randomness, amorphous silicon carbide defies fragility expectations and stands as a testament to strength.

The tensile strength of this material reaches an impressive 10 GigaPascal (GPa). Norte provides a vivid illustration, stating that simulating the tensile stress equivalent to 10 GPa would require hanging about ten medium-sized cars end-to-end off a strip of duct tape before it breaks.

The researchers employed an innovative method to test the material’s tensile strength, utilizing microchip technology. By growing films of amorphous silicon carbide on a silicon substrate and suspending them, they leveraged the nanostrings’ geometry to induce high tensile forces. This approach ensures unprecedented precision and opens avenues for future material testing.

The focus on nanostrings stems from their role as fundamental building blocks, serving as the foundation for constructing intricate suspended structures. Demonstrating high yield strength in nanostrings showcases strength at its most elemental level.

What sets amorphous silicon carbide apart is its scalability. Unlike graphene, which is challenging to produce in large quantities, and diamonds, which are either rare or costly to synthesize, amorphous silicon carbide can be produced at wafer scales, providing large sheets of this incredibly robust material.

By Impact Lab