Research on Ring-Shaped Molecules

MIT chemical engineers’ team has created a new material, which is stronger than steel and lighter as plastic. The material can be easily manufactured in large quantities. Their study was published in ‘Nature Journal’.

Features of the new material

The new material is a two-dimensional polymer. It can self-assemble into sheets, unlike all other polymers. Other polymers form one-dimensional chains, similar to spaghetti. Till date, scientists had believed it was not possible to induce polymers in 2D sheets form.

Uses of 2D material

Such materials could be used as a lightweight and durable coating for cell phones or car parts. These can also be used as building material for bridges or other structures. Usually, plastics are not used to support a building, but the development of this material has enabled new things.

Chains of building blocks

Polymers, including all plastics, comprises of chains of building blocks called monomers. The chains grow by adding new molecules, at their ends. Once they are formed, polymers can be shaped into three-dimensional objects like water bottles, using injection moulding.


Polymer scientists have been researching since long, if polymers could be grown into a two-dimensional sheet, which are extremely strong and lightweight. However, work in this field led to the conclusion that it was not possible to do so. This is because, if only one monomer rotates up or down, out of the plane of growing sheet, material will start expanding in three dimensions and the structure of sheet will be lost.

How the new material was developed?

The new material was developed through a new polymerization process. The process allowed them to generate a two-dimensional sheet called polyaramide. For the monomer building blocks, scientists used a compound called melamine, containing a ring of carbon and nitrogen atoms. These monomers can grow in two dimensions, under the right conditions



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