A team of scientists have developed a new type of steel that is ultra-strong yet stretchable, potentially overcoming a tough challenge in steelmaking. According to the research team, a piece of the steel the size of a fingernail can bear the weight of a 2-metric-ton car without fracturing and be stretched by 18-25%.

The team – from Northeastern University in Shenyang, Shenyang National Laboratory for Materials Science and Jiangyin Xingcheng Special Steel Works in eastern China, as well as the Max Planck Institute for Iron Research in Germany – published their findings in the peer-reviewed journal Science. They said the material would have applications in the automotive and aerospace industries, where it could be formed into complex shapes and absorb high energy from the impact of a collision.