Scientists were amazed by a strange substance that can be made like plastic, but it is made like metal

A group of scientists at the University of Chicago have discovered a way to create a material in which the molecular fragments are mixed and disordered, but still can conduct electricity very well. This goes against all the rules we know about conductivity. Above is the artist’s visualization of the network. Credit: Illustration by Frank Wijlowski

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Plastic Conducts Like Metal Material Structure

Illustration of the structure of the material. Nickel atoms are shown in green, carbon atoms in gray, and sulfur atoms in yellow. Credit: Illustration by Xie et al

Then Xie began experimenting with some materials that were discovered years ago, but largely ignored since. He strung nickel atoms like pearls into a string of molecular beads made of carbon and sulfur, and began testing.

To the scientists’ astonishment, the material easily and strongly conducted electricity. What’s more, it was very stable. “We heated it, chilled it, exposed it to air and humidity, and even dripped Anderson Lab at University of Chicago

A group of scientists from the University of Chicago has discovered a way to create a material that can be made like a plastic, but conducts electricity more like a metal. Above, members of the Anderson lab at work. Credit: Photo by John Zich/University of Chicago

The new material has no such restriction because it can be made at room temperature. It can also be used where the need for a device or pieces of the device to withstand heat, acid or alkalinity, or humidity has previously limited engineers’ options to develop new technology.

The team is also exploring the different forms and functions the material might make. “We think we can make it 2D or 3D, make it porous, or even introduce other functions by adding different linkers or nodes,” said Xie.

Reference: “Intrinsic glassy-metallic transport in an amorphous coordination polymer” by Jiaze Xie, Simon Ewing, Jan-Niklas Boyn, Alexander S. Filatov, Baorui Cheng, Tengzhou Ma, Garrett L. Grocke, Norman Zhao, Ram Itani, Xiaotong Sun, Himchan Cho, Zhihengyu Chen, Karena W. Chapman, Shrayesh N. Patel, Dmitri V. Talapin, Jiwoong Park, David A. Mazziotti and John S. Anderson, 26 October 2022, Nature.
DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-05261-4

Other authors on the paper include University of Chicago graduate students Norman Zhao, Garrett Grocke, Ram Itani, Baorui Cheng, Tengzhou Ma (PhD’21, now at Applied Materials), Simon Ewing (PhD’22, now at Intel) and Jan-Niklas Boyn (PhD’22, now at Princeton); postdoctoral researcher Xiaotong Sun; UChicago Director of X-ray Research Facilities Alexander S. Filatov; Himchan Cho (formerly a postdoctoral researcher at UChicago, now at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology); UChicago Profs. Shrayesh N. Patel, Dmitri V. Talapin, Jiwoong Park, and David A. Mazziotti; and Zhihengyu Chen and Prof. Karena Chapman of Stonybrook University.

Funding: Army Research Office, a directorate of U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory; U.S. Department of Energy; National Science Foundation.


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