A team of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a new type of Kevlar-based molecules that can self-assemble into extended strands. Their thickness is only one nanometer, while the length and area can vary depending on the tasks. The first experiments showed that these thinnest threads are incredibly strong, and therefore have the widest range of potential applications.
Molecules that assemble themselves into complex structures like membranes are not uncommon in nature. Due to the complexity of the conditions for their appearance, most of these formations are not chemically stable and critically depends on the presence of water - they literally fall apart when they dry. After dozens of experiments, trial and error, scientists managed to obtain a successful synthetic design - water is still needed, but only as a medium for the primary assembly of nanoribbons.
Self-assembled molecules have a hydrophilic shell and a hydrophobic core, plus they form strong hydrogen bonds between their nuclei. Once in the water, they automatically line up in a chain, interlocking with each other. Extracted from water, nanoribbons retain their integrity and strength, they can withstand a load of 200 times their own weight. This material is also distinguished by an incredible surface area, about 200 sq. M. per 1 gram of mass.
As a result, the novelty immediately found application as a basis for filters capable of extracting heavy metal molecules from water. They also have perspectives when creating new batteries. But most of all, scientists are fascinated by the very technology of designing complex self-assembled nanostructures with desired properties - this is the technology of the future.