Chinese scientists have found a "super material" as light as a balloon but as strong as metal, with the potential to be developed by the mainland’s military into armor to protect its troops and tanks.

According to a study led by researchers at the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the foam-like material was created when tiny tubes of graphene were formed into a cellular structure that maintained the stability of diamond.

The discovery is reported in the latest issue of the journal Advanced Materials.

Graphene is an extremely thin carbon sheet that has attracted attention in recent years among researchers due to its extraordinary "super material" properties. It is, for instance, about 207 times stronger than steel by weight and can highly efficiently conduct heat and electricity.

The report notes that the new material is able to support something 40,000 times its own weight without bending.

A piece of the graphene foam survived the impact of a blow with a force of over 14,500 pounds per square inch, which almost rivals the pressure experienced at the deepest part of the world’s ocean known as Challenger Deep (approx. 36,000 feet in depth) in the Mariana Trench, located off the coast of Guam.

According to the research team, more external shocks could be withstood by this "super material" than what previously studied graphene materials can.

In addition, this material could be squashed to a mere five percent of its original size and still return to its original form, remaining intact after 1,000 more times the process was done.

This new material is targeted for its potential use as cushion under the surface of bulletproof vests as well as on the outside of military tanks, absorbing shocks from incoming projectiles.

Previously researched and promoted "super materials" include bioinspired plastics (self-healing materials), heat scavengers, cheap solar cells, aerogels, and light manipulators and stanene.

Photo: CORE-Materials | Flickr

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