Stronger Than Steel? Not So Fast!

Technically, Tungsten is the strongest pure metal. In its natural state, it has the highest tensile strength - somewhere in the region of 1510 MPa (megapascals). It also proudly takes the prize for having the highest melting point of any unalloyed metal. But it is brittle and dense making it difficult to work with. Steel conversely, is highly versatile and in a category of its own as far as strength goes.

Enter steel with the ‘stronger than steel’ title intact:

Being an alloy of iron and carbon, we recognize that steel, although on a pedestal, is nonetheless vulnerable seeing that alloys are, by nature, a constantly changing commodity. Researchers vie for the distinction of creating elemental combinations to outdo the strength of steel. Steel mixed with other elements, specifically Vanadium has shown mind-blowing strengths of 5205 MPa. But, a phenomenal new material has broken away from the realm of science fiction with astoundingly stiff competition for steel’s strength.

Super Strong Metals

Figure 1: Credit: Melanie Gonick/MIT

Super strong concoctions incorporating more space than material has caught the attention of scientists the world over. With more holes than Swiss Cheese, the new material is as ‘dense as the lightest plastic bag and ten times stronger than steel’, according to Live Science.

The material is a prototype, the principles of which could be applied to other substances– the secret is in the geometry, not the material.

What may be produced in experimental laboratories is one thing but there is as yet no platform in our current manufacturing field to produce anything stronger than steel at this point. So, sure, watch this space if you live long enough to see anything emerge to rob steel of its super-strength title.

In the meantime, steel takes the prize for strength and versatility. Long live steel!

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