An international group of researchers, led by Professor Thomas Pichler of the University of Vienna, claims to have created a way to mass produce carbon chains made up of more than 6400 carbon atoms. Before this discovery, the record number of carbon atoms in a single chain was 100.

Carbyne was first proposed by Adolf von Baeyer in 1885, who described the existence of linear acetylenic carbon, or an infinitely long carbon chain, but warned it would remain elusive due to its extreme instability.

Carbyne’s mechanical properties are hypothesised to exceed all known materials. It’s assumed to be twice as stiff as graphene, 40 times stiffer than diamond, and have greater tensile strength than any other carbon material.

To achieve this new length, the researchers created double-walled carbon nanotubes by rolling two layers of graphene. The nanotubes were wrapped around the carbon chains, providing a stable environment to grow the carbon chains.

As yet, the chains cannot be seen by the naked eye so carbine won’t be used in large scale devices straight away. However, carbyne’s electrical properties are said to increase with the length of its chain, meaning that researchers will be able to experiment with the material more effectively as they produce longer chains.

Carbyne’s strength to weight ratio means that, if it can be scaled up, it could be used in construction and mechanical applications. It also displays excellent conductivity marking it as a key component for future generations of electronic devices.