One of the causes of Alzheimer's disease is thought to be a buildup of plaque in the brain, caused by some nasty little proteins called beta-amyloids. Scientists in Israel have managed to take those proteins and put them to work, creating an organic material that's printable, transparent, and twice as strong as Kevlar.
Not only is this new super-material stronger than both Kevlar and steel, as far as is known it's the hardest organic material in existence, ever. It also happens to be completely transparent, printable, easy to manipulate and just as easy (i.e. cheap) to manufacture.
To create it, researchers at Tel Aviv University took a simplified version of the beta-amyloid protein that forms brain plaques and modified it to form tiny self-assembling nanospheres ranging from about 30 nanometers to two micrometers in size. These spheres are crazy strong: 40% stronger than steel, to be exact, which blows way past Kevlar.
The first applications for this stuff (which needs a sexier name than N-tert-butoxycarbonyl (Boc)-protected diphenylalanine) are likely going to be in enhancing the strength of existing materials, such as ceramics and bulletproof glass. The researchers have no trouble imaging all kinds of other things to do with it as well, from printable body armor to a space elevator.
It took about 20 years for Kevlar to make the jump from the lab into practical use, but since this new material has already been patented and licensed, things might be moving a bit more quickly. This would be good news for everyone who depends on body armor to keep them safe… And better news for everyone who wants to print their own space elevator.