Nanolattices are promoted as next-generation multifunctional high-performance materials, but their mechanical response is limited to extreme strength yet brittleness, or extreme deformability but low strength and stiffness. Ideal impact protection systems require high-stress plateaus over long deformation ranges to maximize energy absorption. Here glassy carbon nanospinodals, i.e., nanoarchitectures with spinodal shell topology, combining ultrahigh energy absorption and exceptional strength and stiffness at low weight. Noncatastrophic deformation up to 80% strain, and energy absorption up to one order of magnitude higher than for other nano-, micro-, macro-architectures and solids, and state-of-the-art impact protection structures are shown. At the same time, the strength and stiffness are on par with the most advanced yet brittle nanolattices, demonstrating true multifunctionality. Finite element simulations show that optimized shell thickness-to-curvature-radius ratios suppress catastrophic failure by impeding propagation of dangerously oriented cracks. In contrast to most micro- and nano-architected materials, spinodal architectures may be easily manufacturable on an industrial scale, and may become the next generation of superior cellular materials for structural applications.
This article was reviewed in Science by Senior Editor Marc Lavine.