- Weaving is one of the oldest crafts known to humankind, with the earliest textiles dating back to about 5,000 years ago.
- Organic crystals, long thought to be stiff and brittle, are now known to have extraordinary elastic properties, revealing an unexplored new direction in materials science.
Abu Dhabi, UAE, November 28, 2023: Applying simple, ancient weaving techniques to newly recognized properties of organic crystals, researchers with the Smart Materials Lab (SML) and the Center for Smart Engineering Materials (CSEM) at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) have, for the first time, developed a unique form of woven “textile.” These new fabric patches expand one-dimensional crystals into flexible, integrated, two-dimensional planar structures that are incredibly strong – some 20 times stronger than the original crystals – and resistant to low temperatures.
These traits give them a host of exciting potential applications, including in flexible electronics that range from sensing devices to optical arrays, as well as in the extreme conditions such as low temperatures encountered in space exploration. In the paper titled Woven Organic Crystals published in the journal Nature Communications, Panče Naumov, NYUAD Professor of Chemistry and Director of the CSEM, and colleagues from Jilin University demonstrate that organic crystal can be simply woven into flexible and robust patches with plain, twill, and satin textures.
Because the organic crystals are inherently flexible materials, the researchers found that the patches are not only light in weight, but also robust to mechanical impact. They are more than 15 times more resilient to failure compared to the individual crystals, reflecting the enhanced collective action in response to bending or other impacts on these entangled structural elements.
The researchers also report that the thermal stability of the new “crystalline fabric” is another impressive asset of the flexible crystals. While the thermal stability depends on the actual crystals used in the weaving, crystalline patches of some of these crystals remain flexible over a temperature range of about 350 oC, between –196 and 150 oC, which is superior to many polymers or elastomers that normally become brittle below their glass transition temperature.
The new fabric remains optically transmissive, providing the opportunity to construct networks of optical waveguides that can perform logic operations by selective laser excitation of the component crystals. As a demonstration of that characteristic, the researchers report optical arrays of the woven crystals that can perform simple logic functions.
When organic crystals have the appropriate aspect ratio, they can be exceedingly mechanically compliant, and either bent, curled or twisted. This counter-intuitive flexibility of organic crystals is likely rooted in their weak intermolecular interactions which can sustain large stress without fracture.
“For thousands of years, weaving has been used to produce a range of textiles that are flexible, yet stronger than their component materials, resistant to abrasion and wear, and remarkably durable,” said Dr. Naumov. “Until recently, organic crystals were considered to be stiff and brittle; however, the realization that they can have extraordinary elastic properties has changed that paradigm, not only adding a new facet to their unique set of properties but also revealing an unexplored new direction in materials science. Our new concept of using crystals as the basis for a woven fabric opens up an exciting range of opportunities to combine these woven crystals with other materials for an untold number of technological applications.”
About NYU Abu Dhabi
NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective program with majors in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, arts, and humanities with a world center for advanced research. Its campus enables students to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world, and to advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from some 125 countries and speak over 100 languages. Together, NYU’s campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.
Woven organic crystals