Scientists in Stuttgart are currently doing things to a ceramic, which would normally result in a pile of shards. They were the first to produce a paper-like material from a vanadium pentoxide ceramic which is as hard as copper, yet flexible enough to be rolled up or folded. The material is also different from other ceramics, as it is electrically conductive.
Layered ceramic paper: Scanning electron micrographs show the stacked layers of vanadium pentoxide and water in the composite. The material is so elastic and tough that it can be bent (right-hand image). © Advanced Materials/Stuttgart University
In a project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the scientists from Stuttgart University, the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research produced the ceramic paper consisting of conductive nanofibres of vanadium pentoxide in a straightforward and simple way. The ceramic paper’s special mechanical properties are derived from its structure, which resembles that of mother-of-pearl. The material looks promising for applications in batteries, flat and flexible gas sensors and actuators in artificial muscles.What material scientists have only learned in the last few decades, Mother Nature has practised for millions of years: transforming materials with rather modest mechanical properties into new, extraordinarily hard, tough and elastic ones, by giving them a sophisticated nanostructure. In molluscs’ shells, for instance, hard but brittle aragonite platelets are stacked in layers like bricks and joined using a protein “mortar”, thus creating the hard, yet elastic and sturdy mother-of-pearl.
Zaklina Burghard | Max-Planck-Institut
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