The world's hardest plastic nano-composite material has been discovered by a team of five Bangalore researchers headed by CNR Rao. They have created the material by reinforcing ordinary plastic with diamonds which are invisible to naked eye, a sheet of layered carbon and tiny carbon cylinders. For the reinforcement, materials of nano-dimension have been used, which means smaller than the width of a single strand of human hair. Strengthening a common polymer with nano-diamond, a new age material called graphene (one atom thick carbon honeycomb sheet) and carbon nano tube has produced this material with extra hardness and stiffness.
The mechanical properties like hardness and stiffness (after moulding) improved by as much as 400% compared to those obtained with single reinforcements.
Despite being the world’s hardest plastic nano-composite, the reinforcement material constitutes only one per cent (by weight) of the composite. To create a similar material conventionally, 50-60 per cent glass was required as the reinforcing agent and the resultant composite could not be moulded. Besides excellent mechanical properties, the reinforced polymer also shows semi-conducting behaviour, which could also be exploited. However, researchers are yet to analyse the new material’s toughness and ductility, without which the extent of practical application could not be decided.