You can be a materials geek if you want--you can think titanium's the coolest, or carbon fiber bike frames are full of awesome. Maybe you're a little more esoteric and dream about aerogels or aramids, or maybe nanocoatings. But in the end, the only title that really matters is Strongest Material in the World, and that title's just been granted to...something you've never heard of.
It's called graphene, and anyone familiar with molecular structures probably won't be surprised to know that the new Strongest Material Ever is mostly carbon, the same building block in diamond and buckytubes. The difference with graphene is it lays neatly in a sheet one molecule thick, like ultra-thin plastic wrap. If plastic wrap could do this:
[Columbia professor James] Hone compares his test to stretching a piece of plastic wrap over the top of a coffee cup, and measuring the force that it takes to puncture it with a pencil. If he could get a large enough piece of the material to lay over the top of a coffee cup, he says, graphene would be strong enough to support the weight of a car balanced atop the pencil.
The catch, as you may have surmised from the quote, is that graphene has so far only been synthesized in extremely small pieces, making it useful for high-conductivity transistors, but not so much for physical applications. No word yet on when you'll be able to run to the fabric store and buy a yard or two for making the ultimate shred-proof parachute pants. Assuming you could figure out how to cut the stuff.
Via MIT Technology Review