Carbon has many properties, but one word that’s not usually associated with it is “stretchy.”
That is, not until a team of scientists from the Carnegie Institution for Science and Yanshan University developed a new form of carbon that is elastic as well as ultra-strong, lightweight, and electrically conductive, properties that lend it to a wide array of applications, from aerospace engineering to military armor.
The popular idea of carbon is that it comes in two forms. Either it’s an opaque, black substance like coal, or a hard, brilliant crystal like diamond. However, to chemists, it’s an element that can be formed into an incredible array of substances that include the slippery flat plates of graphite molecules for pencils and lubricants, the incredibly durable crystalline matrix of the diamond for jewelry or drill bits, or exotic molecules, including the Buckminsterfullerene of 60 carbon atoms formed into an open sphere, or sheets of graphene that are 200 times as strong as the strongest steels.