MIT engineers have designed a new 3D material with five percent the density of steel and ten times the strength - making it one of the strongest, lightweight materials known. The material is a sponge-like configuration made by compressing and fusing flakes of graphene. Until now, researchers have had a hard time translating graphene's two-dimensional strength into useful three-dimensional materials. These new findings show that a crucial aspect of the new 3D forms has more to do with their geometrical configuration than with the material itself, which suggests that similar materials could be made by creating similar geometric features. The MIT team compressed the small flakes of graphene using a combination of heat and pressure. This process produced a strong, stable structure whose form resembles that of some corals. These shapes, which have an enormous surface area in proportion to their volume, proved to be remarkably strong.