A Caltech Library Service

Theoretical strength and rubber-like behaviour in micro-sized pyrolytic carbon

Zhang, Xuan and Zhong, Lei and Mateos, Arturo and Kudo, Akira and Vyatskikh, Andrey and Gao, Huajian and Greer, Julia R. and Li, Xiaoyan (2019) Theoretical strength and rubber-like behaviour in micro-sized pyrolytic carbon. Nature Nanotechnology, 14 (8). pp. 762-769. ISSN 1748-3387.

[img] PDF (Supplementary text 1–5 Supplementary Figs. 1–20 Supplementary Figs. 1–20 Supplementary Table 1 Supplementary Table 1) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Video (MPEG) (Supplementary Video 1) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Video (MPEG) (Supplementary Video 2) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Video (AVI) (Supplementary Video 3) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Video (AVI) (Supplementary Video 4) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


The creation of materials with a combination of high strength, substantial deformability and ductility, large elastic limit and low density represents a long-standing challenge, because these properties are, in general, mutually exclusive. Using a combination of two-photon lithography and high-temperature pyrolysis, we have created micro-sized pyrolytic carbon with a tensile strength of 1.60 ± 0.55 GPa, a compressive strength approaching the theoretical limit of ~13.7 GPa, a substantial elastic limit of 20–30% and a low density of ~1.4 g cm^(−3). This corresponds to a specific compressive strength of 9.79 GPa cm^3 g^(−1), a value that surpasses that of nearly all existing structural materials. Pillars with diameters below 2.3 μm exhibit rubber-like behaviour and sustain a compressive strain of ~50% without catastrophic failure; larger ones exhibit brittle fracture at a strain of ~20%. Large-scale atomistic simulations reveal that this combination of beneficial mechanical properties is enabled by the local deformation of 1 nm curled graphene fragments within the pyrolytic carbon microstructure, the interactions among neighbouring fragments and the presence of covalent carbon–carbon bonds.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube access
Zhang, Xuan0000-0002-6155-6825
Kudo, Akira0000-0002-0830-5509
Vyatskikh, Andrey0000-0002-6917-6931
Gao, Huajian0000-0002-8656-846X
Greer, Julia R.0000-0002-9675-1508
Li, Xiaoyan0000-0002-2953-9267
Additional Information:© 2019 Springer Nature Publishing AG. Received 11 May 2018; Accepted 24 May 2019; Published 08 July 2019. Data availability: The data that support the plots and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors upon request. X.L. acknowledges financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grants 11522218 and 11720101002) and the National Basic Research of China (grant 2015CB932500). H.G. acknowledges funding from the National Science Foundation (grant DMR-1709318). J.R.G. acknowledges financial support by the US Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences (DOE-BES) under grant DE-SC0006599. A.V. acknowledges the financial support of the Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech. The authors thank G. R. Rossman for assistance with Raman spectroscopy measurements, J. Yao for help with SIMS measurements and K. Narita for assistance with density measurements of pyrolytic carbon. Author Contributions: X.Z., X.L., H.G. and J.R.G. conceived and designed the experiments and modelling. X.Z. and A.M. synthesized the experimental samples. X.Z. performed the in situ and ex situ compression experiments. A.M. performed the in situ tension experiments. A.K. and X.Z. performed the HRTEM and EELS analyses. A.V. and L.Z. performed the Raman spectroscopy measurements. L.Z. conducted the atomistic simulations. X.Z., L.Z. and X.L. developed the model. X.Z., L.Z., X.L., H.G. and J.R.G. wrote the manuscript. All authors analysed the data, discussed the results and commented on the manuscript. The authors declare no competing interests.
Group:Resnick Sustainability Institute
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Natural Science Foundation of China11522218
National Natural Science Foundation of China11720101002
National Basic Research of China2015CB932500
Department of Energy (DOE)DE-SC0006599
Resnick Sustainability InstituteUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Mechanical engineering; Nanoscale materials
Issue or Number:8
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20190517-100134758
Persistent URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:95560
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:08 Jul 2019 18:19
Last Modified:06 Aug 2019 15:53

Repository Staff Only: item control page