October 9, 2022
Industry News

MIT's Carbon Fiber Blocks Could Build Bridges, Rockets, and More!

MIT's Carbon Fiber Blocks | Engineers at MIT have developed new carbon fiber blocks, capable of building bridges, airplanes, rockets, and other structures.

Revolutionary Carbon Fiber Building System: The Future of Construction

Carbon fiber has emerged as the "building material of choice," lauded by industry experts for its remarkable attributes. However, traditional carbon fiber production involves creating large, continuous pieces, necessitating extensive machinery and facilities. Although 3D printing has been used for crafting smaller carbon fiber components, it remains highly impractical for constructing massive structures like bridges, rockets, and airplane wings. But what if we could 3D print components of a large structure and assemble them to form a complete object? This intriguing question inspired the brilliant minds at MIT, Neil Gershenfeld and Kenneth Chueng, who embarked on a groundbreaking journey to develop a new carbon fiber building system with the potential to transform the construction industry.

MIT's innovative design merges three areas of research: fiber composites, cellular materials featuring porous cells, and additive manufacturing, such as 3D printing. From minuscule objects to colossal structures, on Earth and even in the vast expanse of space, MIT's revolutionary carbon fiber "cubocts" present a remarkable potential for crafting airplanes, rocket fuselages, bridges, levees, and a wide array of structures. These interlocking carbon fiber blocks resemble our childhood favorites, K'Nex and Legos, yet they are ten times stiffer than comparable lightweight materials, yielding potent building materials with astonishingly low density.

These bricks are fabricated using carbon fiber infused with epoxy resin, meticulously molded into flat "X" shapes. Each "X" boasts a central hole that perfectly accommodates the leg of another "X," resulting in an extraordinarily robust structure made up of vertex-connected octahedrons, affectionately known as "cubocts" by the researchers. The cubocts can be flexibly combined, removed, or repositioned to create structures with varying strengths. Whether it's resistance to twisting or impact resilience, these dynamic structures offer unmatched versatility. When tested for strength, the carbon fiber bricks impressively withstood 12.3 megapascals of pressure, boasting a remarkably low density of only 7.2 milligrams per cubic centimeter.

Yet, the true innovation of MIT's new technology lies in the cubocts' flexibility. While the individual X-shaped blocks are exceptionally rigid, they can be easily assembled, disassembled, reoriented, or replaced as needed, granting architects and builders infinite creative freedom. By weaving different blocks together, multi-directional strength can be achieved. The ultimate vision is to have robots mass-produce these carbon fiber blocks and assemble them into structures seamlessly. Moreover, the goal is to develop carbon fiber materials capable of self-reconfiguration, adapting on-the-fly to the specific conditions and forces they encounter.

Carbon fiber, a renowned building material, can be costly to manufacture and challenging to repair in case of damage. MIT's cubocts deliver the same lightweight strength as traditional carbon fiber without requiring massive facilities, offering substantial cost reductions. Furthermore, the ability to effortlessly replace damaged components results in increased cost savings and enhanced design flexibility. Pound for pound, this pioneering technology demands significantly less material than conventional concrete and steel to bear a given load, thereby reducing construction and assembly expenses. Vehicles constructed with cuboct technology would experience reduced weight, leading to decreased fuel consumption and operational costs.

The potential applications are boundless, and the only question that remains is, "Will it work?"

 When combined together, carbon fiber "cubocts" can create infinite design possibilities. Photo credit: Extreme Tech


MIT's "cubocts" are flat, X-shaped pieces of carbon fiber that can combine to build huge structures. Photo Credit: Phys.org

In a weight test, the cubocts successfully withstood 12.3 megapascals of pressure. Photo Credit: Extreme Tech

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