If you squeeze a normal object in all directions, it shrinks in all directions. But a few strange materials will actually grow in one dimension when compressed. A team of chemists has now discovered a structure that takes this property to a new level, expanding more dramatically under pressure than any other known material. The finding could lead to new kinds of pressure sensors and artificial muscles.
This is a representation of zinc dicyanoaurate showing a spring-like gold helix embedded in a flexible honeycomb-like framework. (Gray balls are carbon atoms, purple is nitrogen, and teal is zinc.)
Credit: Image courtesy of Andrew Goodwin, University of Oxford.
Andrew Cairns, a graduate student at the University of Oxford and a member of the research team, will discuss the new material and its applications at the American Crystallographic Association meeting held July 20-24 in Honolulu.
Negative linear compression, or NLC, has existed for millions of years; in fact, biologists believe octopi and squid use the phenomenon to make their muscles contract. Only in recent decades, however, have scientists learned to design materials with this property. Until a few years ago, none of these manmade structures had been found to expand more than a fraction of a percent under compression, making them of limited use in engineering. But researchers are now learning how to design materials that expand far more than those previously known. The trick, say the scientists presenting this latest work, is to look for structures that can respond to pressure by rearranging their atoms in space without collapsing.
The material the research team discovered, zinc dicyanoaurate, does just that. Its unique structure combines a spring-like helical chain of gold atoms embedded in a honeycomb-like framework made of gold, cyanide (carbon bonded to nitrogen), and zinc. When the chain is compressed, the honeycomb flexes outward by as much as 10% – several times what had been achieved by any previous material. The scientists call this large response "giant negative linear compressibility," and compare it to a collapsible wine rack that folds up horizontally by expanding substantially in the vertical direction. Andrew Goodwin of Oxford, leader of the research team, says these wine rack structures represent "a new block in our Lego kit."
Zinc dicyanoaurate's unique properties make it promising for several applications. In the immediate term, the material, which is transparent, could be used as an optical pressure sensor. Compression causes the crystal spacing to narrow in one direction and widen in another, changing the path light takes through the material in a way that is sensitive to tiny variations in pressure. A longer-term application is artificial muscle design. Our muscles contract in response to an electric field, but new muscles could be designed to contract when pressure is applied, as biologists believe octopus muscles do.
Goodwin's team is now working to understand more fully the mechanisms behind NLC. But even without a complete picture of nature's design principles, they feel confident zinc dicyanoaurate is already "pushing the limits" of how far any material will be able to expand under pressure. "We've got a pretty good feel for what the limits are," Goodwin says. "This material is pretty special."
The presentation 13.06.8, "Pushing the limits: giant negative linear compressibility," will take place from 11:15-11:30 am on Monday, July 22. Abstract: http://www.amercrystalassn.org/app/session/100136
Catherine Meyers | EurekAlert!
Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics
25.04.2017 | University of Delaware
Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging
24.04.2017 | Pohang University of Science & Technology (POSTECH)
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences
25.04.2017 | Life Sciences