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Home > Press > New, high-strength and lightweight nacre-mimetic material applicable to large-scale industrial processes

Abstract:
The Molecular Materials Research Group within the Department of Applied Physics in collaboration with VTT and Royal Institute of Technology shows the first example of light-weight but mechanically strong nanocomposite material mimicking the nacreous shells that allows upscaling for industrial processes.

New, high-strength and lightweight nacre-mimetic material applicable to large-scale industrial processes

Finland | Posted on March 24th, 2010

The materials are expected to be feasible in applications where lightweight but strong materials allow particular benefits, e.g. in telecommunication, aerospace applications, and vehicles.

Nacreous shell has attracted materials scientists for a long time, due to its lightweight but strong structure. Mimicking nacre, the new material consists of alternating inorganic nanoscale platelets which are glued by polymers, and the materials self-assemble spontaneously in a one-step process to form layered structures, using for example paper-making process, painting, and spreading.

The new invention is based on a deep understanding of self-assembly processes in material science, said Andreas Walther, PhD., and Academy Professor Olli Ikkala who lead the project. "We have used self-assemblies and hierarchies already long in other types of materials to achieve functional properties. A good example of self-assembly is given by proteins whose chains contain in a delicate manner the information how to assemble as functional structures."

Different nanocomposite materials have already been explored extensively. However, it has remained a challenge to achieve drastically improved properties or concepts that are easily upscalable for large-scale technological applications.

Lightweight and strong materials have a number of applications

The new material has attracted a wide interest. The properties are easily tunable. At present it shows a tensile modulus of 45 GPa, the tensile strength of 250 MPa, it has very low gas permeation, and it shows very good properties as a thermal shield upon exposed fire. The material has been developed based on initial funding of Academy of Finland, and continued by UPM, a global forest product company, who has also a patent pending on the concept.

"We believe that the material can be attractive for mobile technologies and even for flexible electronics as a support and barrier material," said Walther and Ikkala.

Upon further tailoring of the materials and the processes, applications related to vehicles and aerospace are expected to become feasible. The lightweight but strong materials can lead to energy savings.

Nature inspires novel high tech materials

The new material is an example of biomimetics, which aims to mimic the most attractive materials in nature, but in simpler terms.

The materials scientists are fascinated by the delicacy of natural materials. The properties have been developed due to the lengthy process of evolution and in some cases extraordinary properties relevant to technology can be identified. In addition to nacreous shells, the materials scientists explore for example mimics for silk, jaws, and bones.

The results have been published in Nano Letters (DOI: 10.1021/nl1003224)pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nl1003224

see also: www.technologyreview.com/computing/24828/page1/.

####

About Aalto University
Established in 2010, the Aalto University is a new university with centuries of experience. The Aalto University is a created from the merger of three Finnish universities: The Helsinki School of Economics, Helsinki University of Technology and The University of Art and Design Helsinki. The three schools of the Aalto University - the School of Economics, the School of Art and Design and the School of Science and Technology are all leading and renowned institutions in their respective fields and in their own right.

The combination of three universities opens up new possibilities for strong multi-disciplinary education and research. The new university's ambitious goal is to be one of the leading institutions in the world in terms of research and education in its own specialised disciplines.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Andreas Walther, PhD

+358 50 5113192

Olli Ikkala
Academy Professori

+358 50 4100454

Copyright © Aalto University

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