In 2014, a brilliant chemist, James Tour, revolutionized the science with an incredible invention. By using carbon nanotubes for reinforcement, he managed to develop the so-called rebar graphene. Thanks to the hardness given by the carbon nanotubes, Tour’s creation is twice as tough as pristine graphene.
In fact, the innovative chemist managed to create a fracture-resistant material. As we know, graphene is a sheet of carbon with the thickness of an atom. If we consider the two-dimensional scale, we remember that the material is stronger than steel. However, graphene can still be ripped and thorn, because it is very thin.
Here is the part where Tour’s idea comes in.
Nanotubes can support the graphene’s integrity. In other words, it keeps the material stretchy and has the capacity to reduce cracks. In this case, a nanotube rebar can bridge and divert cracks, preventing them to propagate in unreinforced graphene.
This feature makes the material practical, especially when it’s used on electrically active wearables or electronics. It gives devices the necessary flexibility, stress tolerance, transparency and mechanical stability. Also, graphene can be used on electronic applications because it has the proper conductivity.
Naturally, graphene has the toughness of 4 megapascals. On the other hand, rebar graphene reaches 10.7 megapascals in toughness. You can see the difference for yourself. Even though graphene in its purest form is considered one of the strongest materials, it’s not quite fracture-resistant. Because of this brittleness, it’s difficult to assess the graphene’s mechanical properties.
After many attempts, scientists consider that the most efficient method for strengthening the graphene is to introduce carbon nanotubes into bulk material. The result is called rebar graphene and it is a unique material. Further studies and experiments will allow researchers to find out more about the hybrid’s mechanical properties and appliance.