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Scientists hail new material they say is stronger than steel

posted 18 Dec 2010, 03:54 by Mpelembe   [ updated 18 Dec 2010, 03:57 ]

Stronger than steel and tougher than kevlar - the new organic material that may be used for military and biomedical applications according to its Israeli developers.

REHOVOT, ISRAEL. REUTERS - Researchers in Israel say they have developed the strongest synthesized organic material known today, with an "enormous" range of future applications, from military to biomedical uses.

The material is nano scale, just one thousand millionth of a meter thick and is derived from amino-acid. A research team at Tel Aviv University developed the material for over seven years.

Doctor Itai Russo, a researcher at the department of structural biology at the Weizmann Institute, where the material's mechanical qualities were studied, said the stiffness of the nano-spheres came as a surprise, resisting even metal probes.

"To our great surprise it didn't do anything to those spheres so immediately we realised that these guys are very, very stiff," he said.

So stiff that Russo had to source diamond tipped probes - the material previously thought to be the strongest before the discovery of graphene - another atomic level carbon material.

Professor Ehud Gazit, Vice President for Research and Development and Chair of Nano-biology at Tel Aviv University, said the nano-spheres are tougher than kevlar and stronger than steel.

"This material, is the strongest, the stiffest, the most rigid material ever characterized, more rigid than steel," Gazit said.

Gazit said future appliances for the material -- which he described as nano-kevlar-- could range from military uses, such as soldiers' armour to bio-medical uses, such as artificial implants, which would be very strong, yet friendly to the body.

"The range of applications for this material is enormous," Gazit said.

Gazit added that the team was presently in negotiations with a number of international companies to further develop applications for the cheap and easy to make nano-spheres.

Two researchers from Manchester University in Britain won the Nobel Prize for Physics this year for their 2004 discovery of graphene, the new strongest material known to man - a sheet or carbon just one molecule thick.