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MM: Super Strong Graphene Foam, And Thermally Conductive Rubber

In this episode, we discuss reinforcing graphene foam for super strength, and creating thermally conductive rubber.

Rebar Graphene Foam

Graphene has a long list of advantages like its strength and how lightweight it is, plus it’s great for electricity and heat conduction, but it’s hard to make use of these properties because Graphene spends most of its time in a two-dimensional form. But researchers are finding ways to work around that problem.

Not only have MIT scientists recently developed a 3D version of graphene that is 10 times stronger than steel with a fraction of the density, but now researchers at Rice University have used carbon nanotubes to reinforce graphene foam. Named for the reinforcing bars commonly used to strengthen concrete, Rice's "rebar graphene" is assembled around carbon nanotubes with several concentric layers. 

The team mixed the nanotubes with a powdered nickel catalyst and sugar to provide the carbon. Dried pellets of the substance were then pressed in a steel die, and the carbon in the sugar was turned into graphene through chemical vapor deposition. All remaining traces of nickel were removed to reveal a pure carbon piece of graphene foam.

The resulting material can be molded into any shape and can support up to 3,000 times its weight before springing back to its original height. By comparison, graphene foam without nanotube supports began to struggle at just 150 times its own weight.

What applications would this reinforced graphene be good for? Could it replace any materials currently being used in manufacturing? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below. 

Thermally Conductive Rubber

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have stumbled upon a breakthrough in the world of soft, stretchable electronics. 

The new material, nicknamed “Thubber” is a highly thermally-conductive rubber. Researchers say the material has similar elasticity to biological tissue and can be stretched to more than 6 times its length.

Thubber is made of a soft elastomer with non-toxic, liquid metal micro-droplets suspended within it. When pre-stretched at room temperature, the metal droplets form pathways in the rubber that are efficient for heat travel. This allows the material to be both electrically insulating and thermally conductive which means heat can be efficiently transferred away from electronic components. 
To test the material, researchers made a Thubber leg strap with an LED safety light for joggers. The material dissipated the heat that otherwise would have burned the jogger. They also made a soft robotic fish with a Thubber tail and swims without the use of conventional motors or gears.

Researchers say Thubber could have uses in the athletic wear and sports medicine industries as well as advanced manufacturing, energy and transportation. Basically any industry where a stretchable, electronic material could be of use. Even artificial muscles in robots.

How do you think Thubber could be used in flexible electronics? Do you think it has applications in the manufacturing world? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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