Ceramic can be thinner than you could have ever imagined

Even though they are less than 100 nanometers thick,these ceramic plates are strong enough to be picked up by hand and retain their shape after being bent and squeezed. Credit: University of Pennsylvania

When you consider thin ceramic you probably think about that precious chinaware that you saw in a museum. Think differently.

Researchers have managed to create the thinnest ceramic layer ever, some 25 to 100nm thick, that means 100 times thinner than an aluminium foil you use in the kitchen to wrap up the meat.

And they used aluminium for that! Aluminium oxide, to be precise, that is a type of ceramic.

Very thin layers of materials tend to curl and stick, think about the foils used in the kitchen. This new material, instead, can retain its shape, does not curl and if you bend it it will spring back to its original shape.

This is made possibile by the way it is manufactured, one atom at a time layered one upon the other to form a corrugated structure that provides the architectural strength to the finished product.

I got interested in this news that I stumbled upon just after having finished the previous post with my bet on smart materials as a game changer in the next decade.

I would say this ceramic foil is a sort of smart material, able to maintain its shape and get back to it after the pressure that has created a bend is relieved. The proper name is mechanical meta-material where the "meta" is there to indicate that it has special characteristics that have been created through a specific manufacturing process that are not present in the normal material.

An intersting, curious, application indicated by the research team is the construction of insect like robots with the ceramic serving as wings: they would have the required stiffness and lightness to match a natural insect wing, something that so far has been impossible to create.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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