Rice University researchers have found that fracture-resistant “rebar graphene” is more than twice as tough as pristine graphene. While on the two-dimensional scale, graphene is stronger than steel, its extremely thin nature makes it subject to ripping and tearing. Rebar graphene is the nanoscale analog of rebar (reinforcement bars) in concrete, in which embedded steel bars enhance the material’s strength and durability. Rebar graphene, developed by the Rice lab of chemist James Tour in 2014, uses carbon nanotubes for reinforcement.
In a new study, Rice materials scientist Jun Lou, graduate student and lead author Emily Hacopian and collaborators, including Prof. James Tour, stress-tested rebar graphene and found that nanotube rebar diverted and bridged cracks that would otherwise propagate in unreinforced graphene.