3D-Printed 'Schwarzite': Building Material of the Future?
Schwarzites, named after German scientist Hermann Schwarz, who predicted the structures in the 1880s, are mathematical marvels that feature a minimum of surface and maximum of space. Rice University engineers are using 3D printers to turn these structures, which until now existed primarily in theory, into strong, light, and durable materials with complex, repeating patterns. The porous structures are designed with computer algorithms and use as little material possible and still provide strength and compressibility. The efforts at Rice University may someday lead to nanoscale electronic devices, catalysts, and battery components, and on the macroscale could become high-load-bearing, impact-resistant components for buildings, cars, and aircraft. It may eventually be possible, the researchers say, to print an entire building as one schwarzite 'brick.'