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Concept: Specific strength


To enhance the strength-to-weight ratio of a material, one may try to either improve the strength or lower the density, or both. The lightest solid materials have a density in the range of 1,000 kg/m(3); only cellular materials, such as technical foams, can reach considerably lower values. However, compared with corresponding bulk materials, their specific strength generally is significantly lower. Cellular topologies may be divided into bending- and stretching-dominated ones. Technical foams are structured randomly and behave in a bending-dominated way, which is less weight efficient, with respect to strength, than stretching-dominated behavior, such as in regular braced frameworks. Cancellous bone and other natural cellular solids have an optimized architecture. Their basic material is structured hierarchically and consists of nanometer-size elements, providing a benefit from size effects in the material strength. Designing cellular materials with a specific microarchitecture would allow one to exploit the structural advantages of stretching-dominated constructions as well as size-dependent strengthening effects. In this paper, we demonstrate that such materials may be fabricated. Applying 3D laser lithography, we produced and characterized micro-truss and -shell structures made from alumina-polymer composite. Size-dependent strengthening of alumina shells has been observed, particularly when applied with a characteristic thickness below 100 nm. The presented artificial cellular materials reach compressive strengths up to 280 MPa with densities well below 1,000 kg/m(3).

Concepts: Buckling, Physical compression, Solid mechanics, Specific strength, Structure, Compressive strength, Strength of materials, Materials science


To determine whether lower thigh muscle specific strength increases risk of incident radiographic knee osteoarthritis (RKOA), and whether there exists a sex-specific relationship between thigh muscle specific strength and BMI.

Concepts: Solid mechanics, Mass, Strength of materials, Obesity, Specific strength, Body mass index


Synthetic structural materials with exceptional mechanical performance suffer from either large weight and adverse environmental impact (for example, steels and alloys) or complex manufacturing processes and thus high cost (for example, polymer-based and biomimetic composites). Natural wood is a low-cost and abundant material and has been used for millennia as a structural material for building and furniture construction. However, the mechanical performance of natural wood (its strength and toughness) is unsatisfactory for many advanced engineering structures and applications. Pre-treatment with steam, heat, ammonia or cold rolling followed by densification has led to the enhanced mechanical performance of natural wood. However, the existing methods result in incomplete densification and lack dimensional stability, particularly in response to humid environments, and wood treated in these ways can expand and weaken. Here we report a simple and effective strategy to transform bulk natural wood directly into a high-performance structural material with a more than tenfold increase in strength, toughness and ballistic resistance and with greater dimensional stability. Our two-step process involves the partial removal of lignin and hemicellulose from the natural wood via a boiling process in an aqueous mixture of NaOH and Na2SO3 followed by hot-pressing, leading to the total collapse of cell walls and the complete densification of the natural wood with highly aligned cellulose nanofibres. This strategy is shown to be universally effective for various species of wood. Our processed wood has a specific strength higher than that of most structural metals and alloys, making it a low-cost, high-performance, lightweight alternative.

Concepts: Specific strength, Metallurgy, Engineering, Wood, Cell wall, Materials science, Lignin, Cellulose


Most existing methods for additive manufacturing (AM) of metals are inherently limited to ~20-50 μm resolution, which makes them untenable for generating complex 3D-printed metallic structures with smaller features. We developed a lithography-based process to create complex 3D nano-architected metals with ~100 nm resolution. We first synthesize hybrid organic-inorganic materials that contain Ni clusters to produce a metal-rich photoresist, then use two-photon lithography to sculpt 3D polymer scaffolds, and pyrolyze them to volatilize the organics, which produces a >90 wt% Ni-containing architecture. We demonstrate nanolattices with octet geometries, 2 μm unit cells and 300-400-nm diameter beams made of 20-nm grained nanocrystalline, nanoporous Ni. Nanomechanical experiments reveal their specific strength to be 2.1-7.2 MPa g-1 cm3, which is comparable to lattice architectures fabricated using existing metal AM processes. This work demonstrates an efficient pathway to 3D-print micro-architected and nano-architected metals with sub-micron resolution.

Concepts: Polymer, Copper, Specific strength, Iron, Materials science, Nickel, Heavy metal music, Metal


Graphene presents an ideal candidate for lightweight, high strength composite materials given its superior mechanical properties (specific strength of 130GPa and stiffness of 1 TPa). To date, easily scalable graphene-like materials in a form of separated flakes (exfoliated graphene, graphene oxide and reduced graphene oxide) have been investigated as candidates for large-scale applications such as material reinforcement. These graphene-like materials do not fully exhibit all the capabilities of graphene in composite materials. In the current study, we show that macro (2'‘x 2’‘) graphene laminates and fibers can be produced using large continuous sheets of single layer graphene grown by chemical vapor deposition (CVD). The resulting composite structures have potential to outperform the current state of the art composite materials in both mechanical properties and electrical conductivities (>8 S/cm with only 0.13% volumetric graphene loading and 5·10(3) S/cm for pure graphene fibers) with estimated graphene contribution >10 GPa in strength and 1TPa in stiffness.

Concepts: Specific strength, Composite material, Electric charge, Electrical conductor, Materials science, Electricity, Carbon nanotube, Chemical vapor deposition


Materials with three-dimensional micro- and nanoarchitectures exhibit many beneficial mechanical, energy conversion and optical properties. However, these three-dimensional microarchitectures are significantly limited by their scalability. Efforts have only been successful only in demonstrating overall structure sizes of hundreds of micrometres, or contain size-scale gaps of several orders of magnitude. This results in degraded mechanical properties at the macroscale. Here we demonstrate hierarchical metamaterials with disparate three-dimensional features spanning seven orders of magnitude, from nanometres to centimetres. At the macroscale they achieve high tensile elasticity (>20%) not found in their brittle-like metallic constituents, and a near-constant specific strength. Creation of these materials is enabled by a high-resolution, large-area additive manufacturing technique with scalability not achievable by two-photon polymerization or traditional stereolithography. With overall part sizes approaching tens of centimetres, these unique nanostructured metamaterials might find use in a broad array of applications.

Concepts: Metre, Demonstration, Strength of materials, Specific strength, Energy, Optics, Materials science, Orders of magnitude


It is widely believed that carbon nanotubes (CNTs) can be employed to produce super-strong materials with tensile strengths of up to 50 GPa. Numerous efforts have, however, led to CNT fibers with maximum strengths of only a few GPa. Here we report that, due to different mechanical response to the tensile loading of disclination topological defects in the CNT walls, a few of these topological defects are able to greatly decrease the strength of the CNTs, by up to an order of magnitude. This study reveals that even nearly-perfect CNTs cannot be used to build exceptionally-strong materials and therefore synthesizing flawless CNTs is essential for utilizing the ideal strength of CNTs.

Concepts: Specific strength, Allotropes of carbon, Graphite, Materials science, Carbon, Carbon nanotube, Tensile strength


Broader applications of carbon nanotubes to real-world problems have largely gone unfulfilled because of difficult material synthesis and laborious processing. We report high-performance multifunctional carbon nanotube (CNT) fibers that combine the specific strength, stiffness, and thermal conductivity of carbon fibers with the specific electrical conductivity of metals. These fibers consist of bulk-grown CNTs and are produced by high-throughput wet spinning, the same process used to produce high-performance industrial fibers. These scalable CNT fibers are positioned for high-value applications, such as aerospace electronics and field emission, and can evolve into engineered materials with broad long-term impact, from consumer electronics to long-range power transmission.

Concepts: Metal, Electrical conductivity, Graphite, Specific strength, Carbon, Tensile strength, Materials science, Carbon nanotube


de Hoyo, M, Gonzalo-Skok, O, Sañudo, B, Carrascal, C, Plaza-Armas, JR, Camacho-Candil, F, and Otero-Esquina, C. Comparative effects of in-season full-back squat, resisted sprint training, and plyometric training on explosive performance in U-19 elite soccer players. J Strength Cond Res 30(2): 368-377, 2016-The aim of this study was to analyze the effects of 3 different low/moderate load strength training methods (full-back squat [SQ], resisted sprint with sled towing [RS], and plyometric and specific drills training [PLYO]) on sprinting, jumping, and change of direction (COD) abilities in soccer players. Thirty-two young elite male Spanish soccer players participated in the study. Subjects performed 2 specific strength training sessions per week, in addition to their normal training sessions for 8 weeks. The full-back squat protocol consisted of 2-3 sets × 4-8 repetitions at 40-60% 1 repetition maximum (∼1.28-0.98 m·s). The resisted sprint training was compounded by 6-10 sets × 20-m loaded sprints (12.6% of body mass). The plyometric and specific drills training was based on 1-3 sets × 2-3 repetitions of 8 plyometric and speed/agility exercises. Testing sessions included a countermovement jump (CMJ), a 20-m sprint (10-m split time), a 50-m (30-m split time) sprint, and COD test (i.e., Zig-Zag test). Substantial improvements (likely to almost certainly) in CMJ (effect size [ES]: 0.50-0.57) and 30-50 m (ES: 0.45-0.84) were found in every group in comparison to pretest results. Moreover, players in PLYO and SQ groups also showed substantial enhancements (likely to very likely) in 0-50 m (ES: 0.46-0.60). In addition, 10-20 m was also improved (very likely) in the SQ group (ES: 0.61). Between-group analyses showed that improvements in 10-20 m (ES: 0.57) and 30-50 m (ES: 0.40) were likely greater in the SQ group than in the RS group. Also, 10-20 m (ES: 0.49) was substantially better in the SQ group than in the PLYO group. In conclusion, the present strength training methods used in this study seem to be effective to improve jumping and sprinting abilities, but COD might need other stimulus to achieve positive effects.

Concepts: Isometric exercise, Specific strength, Physical strength, Strength training, Weight training, Better, Exercise, Plyometrics


We compared the effects of 6 weeks dry-land and in-water specific strength-training combined with a water polo (WP) program on seven sport-specific performance parameters. Design: Nineteen professional players were randomly assigned to two groups: in-water strength group (WSG) (in-water training only) and dry-land strength group (LSG). The program included three weekly strength-training sessions and five days of WP training per week for six weeks during the preseason. Method: 10m-T-Agility Test, 20-m maximal sprint swim, maximal dynamic strength (1RM, bench press (BP) and full squat (FS), in-water boost, countermovement jump (CMJ) and WP throwing speed (ThS) were measured. Results: Significant improvements (p≤0.05) were found in the experimental groups in some variables: CMJ (2.35 cm, 9.07%, Effect Size (ES)=0.89 and 2.6 cm; 7.6%; ES=0.83) in the LSG and WSG respectively), In-water boost increased in the WSG group (4.1 cm; 11.48%; ES=0.70), FS and BP increased (p≤0.05) only in the LSG group (12.1 kg; 11.27%; ES=1.15) and (8.3 kg; 9.55%; ES=1.30), respectively. There was a decrease of performance in Agility test (- 0.55 sec; 5.60%; ES=0.74). Conclusions: Both, dry-land and in-water specific strength and high-intensity training in these male WP players produced medial to large effects on most WP-specific performance parameters. Therefore, we propose modifications to current training methodology for WP players in preseason to include both training program (dry-land and in-water specific strength and high-intensity training) for athlete preparation in this sport.

Concepts: Polo, Water polo, Bench press, Test method, Solid mechanics, Strength of materials, Specific strength