This New DNA-Covered Material Is 4 Times As Strong As Steel

Glass DNA Nanolattice, a new superhero material, has arrived to unseat Iron Man! A material that is four times stronger than steel while being very light has been created by researchers at the University of Connecticut. This cutting-edge nanolattice opens the door to a wide range of engineering possibilities by fusing the durability of glass with the adaptability of DNA.

Traditionally, strength and weight in materials have been opposing properties – increasing one often leads to a decrease in the other. However, striking the right balance is crucial for various applications. The researchers at the University of Connecticut have found an unlikely combination in DNA and glass, which offers both remarkable strength and minimal weight.

DNA is renowned for its dense data-storage properties but is now proving to be a versatile construction material at the nanoscale. It can stretch, scrunch, and self-assemble into various shapes. On the other hand, glass may seem fragile, but when free of flaws like cracks, it exhibits incredible strength. Small pieces of glass are typically flawless, which the researchers ingeniously exploited.

The process began with DNA programmed to self-assemble into lattice-like shapes. These DNA lattices were then coated in a glassy material, forming thin layers just a few hundred atoms thick. The final result is glass-coated DNA strands that derive strength from both materials while being lightweight due to their mostly empty space framework.

The material’s compressive strength was tested and found to reach an impressive 5 GigaPascals (GPa), surpassing steel’s strength fourfold and boasting a density only one-fifth of steel’s weight. Co-corresponding author of the study, Seok-Woo Lee, proudly stated, “For the given density, our material is the strongest known.”

The researchers aren’t stopping there. They plan to further experiment with the material’s formula by exploring different DNA structures and alternative coating materials like carbide ceramics. The ultimate goal is to push the limits of this nanolattice’s strength even further.

Oleg Gang, another co-corresponding author, highlighted the significance of this discovery, emphasizing that the ability to engineer 3D framework nanomaterials using DNA and mineralize them opens up tremendous opportunities for various mechanical applications. However, he also acknowledged that more research is needed before this technology can be employed practically.

The study, published in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science, marks a significant milestone in material science. While Glass DNA Nanolattice Man may not have the catchy ring of Iron Man, this new material has the potential to revolutionize engineering, manufacturing, and various industries in the future. The journey to fully harnessing its potential has just begun, and the possibilities are limitless.

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