The future of construction is more exciting than ever thanks to huge technological developments in material innovation. Researchers are constantly developing new materials that are stronger and lighter than ever before, paving the way to a more energy-efficient and eco-friendly future in everything from transportation to medical technology. We’ve rounded up six cutting-edge materials that rank among some of the lightest and strongest ever discovered—keep reading to see them all.


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3D Graphene

Made from pure carbon, ultra-thin graphene is thought to be one of the strongest materials on the planet. But earlier this year, researchers at MIT found a way to turn two-dimensional graphene into a three-dimensional structure by designing a new material with a sponge-like configuration that’s 5 percent the density of steel and about 10 times as strong. The super-strong and lightweight 3D graphene has been shown to be stronger than its 2D counterpart and offers greater potential uses thanks to its building block form.

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Carbyne

In the spring of 2016, a team of Austrian researchers revealed that they were able to successfully synthesize Carbyne, an exotic form of carbon that they say is the strongest of all known materials—even surpassing graphene. Considered the holy grail of carbon allotropes, Carbyne is made from a monodimensional chain of carbon atoms that’s highly reactive, making it very tricky to synthesize. The stiff material is believed to be twice as strong as carbon nanotubes.

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Aerographite

Created from a network of porous carbon tubes, aerographite is synthetic foam that’s one of the lightest structural materials ever created. Developed by researchers at the University of Kiel and the Technical University of Hamburg, aerographite can be produced in a variety of shapes and boasts a density of just 180 grams per cubic meter, making it about 75 times lighter than styrofoam. The material could be used on the electrodes of lithium ion batteries to reduce their weight.

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Aerographene

Aerographene, also known as graphene aerogel, is believed to be the world’s lightest material with a density of just 0.16 milligram per cubic centimeter. Zhejiang University researchers developed the material, which is approximately 7.5 times less dense than air. The extremely elastic material can absorb up to 900 times their own weight in oil and water, making oil spill cleanups a potential application.

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Metallic microlattice

Metallic microlattice is the world’s lightest metal and one of the lightest structural materials. This synthetic porous material made from nickel phosphorous tubes has a density as low as 0.9 milligrams per cubic centimeter. Potential uses include applications in automotive engineering, aeronautical engineering, and more.

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Limpet teeth

The teeth of limpets, the term for aquatic snails found clinging to rocky shores, are considered one of the strongest biological materials in the world. Made of a mineral-protein composite, limpet teeth have been revealed in a University of Portsmouth study to be much stronger than spider silk. Its strength is believed to be due to its tightly packed mineral fibers, which scientists could combine into man-made composites to create stronger planes, cars, and even dental fillings.

Lead image via ZD News/Huffington Post