Carbon is known for its plentiful allotropes, such as the naturally existing graphite and diamond, as well as synthetic compounds like the "buckyball" fullerene and graphene. Due to its unique valency, carbon is a much sought-after element in creating metamaterials, a type of engineered matter with "super-natural" properties.
Metamaterials owe their unusual qualities properties to intricate inner structures but not necessarily their chemical components. But the complicated geometric features make them challenging to produce using traditional fabrication methods. Thanks to photolithography, an optical 3-D printing method, scientists can produce polymer-based parts with specifically designed patterns.
In a recent Nature Communications article, a team of American and German scientists reported their latest metamaterial innovation called carbon plate-nanolattices. To produce this super-sturdy, atomic-scale structure, the group applied a photolithography process known as two-photon polymerization direct laser writing (TPP-DLW) to a droplet of a photoreactive substrate.
These microscopic lattices are made purely of carbon and shaped like little cubes. But don't their look fools you. The carbon-based nanolattices exhibits strengths that's tougher than bulk diamond. The plate architectures also outrival conventional beam-based nanolattices by over six times in average physical performance.
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