The metal box is an innovative solution for a problem that has plagued all metal boxes for years: the plastic inside is brittle.
Now, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have found a way to create an extremely strong plastic by using graphene, a thin, electrically conductive polymer.
The research, published in ACS Nano, builds on earlier work by researchers at Rice University, the University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who were able to create strong plastic with a material that can withstand extreme temperatures.
The new study also used a graphene-based material that could withstand extreme pressures and pressures in the vacuum of space, as well as a material made of carbon nanotubes, which has been used in space-age vehicles, such as NASA’s Space Shuttle, to keep the vehicle from overheating.
“Our goal is to develop a robust, strong and flexible plastic that can survive extreme environments that are difficult to predict and control,” said Robert Fink, a professor of materials science and engineering at UC Berkeley.
“The problem with plastic is that it is brittle,” Fink said.
“It is very difficult to make it hard enough to break.”
Fink said he had initially envisioned making a plastic that would last for hundreds of thousands of years in space, but that is not realistic, since plastics are fragile and can break down.
Instead, the researchers sought to create a material with a relatively low chance of breaking down, with a high degree of mechanical strength.
“This paper is the first paper to combine this with a carbon nanofiber material,” Finks said.
Fink’s team has created a polymer that is highly flexible and very strong, but the team is also working to develop stronger, stronger polymer materials that are easier to produce, stronger and stronger, the team said in a press release.
The researchers believe the plastic could be a powerful substitute for the plastics used in today’s electronics, because they have found that the materials they’ve used in the research are highly reactive to heat, and are therefore much less likely to degrade in space.
Figs of the new polymer are available at the research group’s website.