Achieving the theoretical limit of strength in shell-based carbon nanolattices

Recent developments in mechanical metamaterials exemplify a new paradigm shift called mechanomaterials, in which mechanical forces and designed geometries are proactively deployed to program material properties at multiple scales. Here, we designed shell-based micro-/nanolattices with I-WP (Schoen’s I-graph–wrapped package) and Neovius minimal surface topologies. Following the designed topologies, polymeric microlattices were fabricated via projection microstereolithography or two-photon lithography, and pyrolytic carbon nanolattices were created through two-photon lithography and subsequent pyrolysis. The shell thickness of created lattice metamaterials varies over three orders of magnitude from a few hundred nanometers to a few hundred micrometers, covering a wider range of relative densities than most plate-based micro-/nanolattices. In situ compression tests showed that the measured modulus and strength of our shell-based micro-/nanolattices with I-WP topology are superior to those of the optimized plate-based lattices with cubic and octet plate unit cells and truss-based lattices. More strikingly, when the density is larger than 0.53 g cm−3, the strength of shell-based pyrolytic carbon nanolattices with I-WP topology was found to achieve its theoretical limit. In addition, our shell-based carbon nanolattices exhibited an ultrahigh strength of 3.52 GPa, an ultralarge fracture strain of 23%, and an ultrahigh specific strength of 4.42 GPa g−1 cm3, surpassing all previous micro-/nanolattices at comparable densities. These unprecedented properties can be attributed to the designed topologies inducing relatively uniform strain energy distributions and avoiding stress concentrations as well as the nanoscale feature size. Our study demonstrates a mechanomaterial route to design and synthesize micro-/nanoarchitected materials.