Carbyne is a chain of carbon atoms held together by either double or alternating single and triple atomic bonds.
That makes it a true one-dimensional material, the Rice scientists said, unlike atom-thin sheets of graphene that have a top and a bottom or hollow nanotubes that have an inside and outside.
Carbyne's tensile strength -- the ability to withstand stretching -- surpasses "that of any other known material" and is double that of graphene, they said.
Scientists have already calculated it would take an elephant balancing on a pencil to break through a sheet of graphene.
"You could look at [carbyne] as an ultimately thin graphene ribbon, reduced to just one atom, or an ultimately thin nanotube," theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson said.
Possible uses of such a material include nanomechanical systems, sensors, as strong and light materials for mechanical applications or for energy storage, he said.
"Regardless of the applications," he said, "academically, it's very exciting to know the strongest possible assembly of atoms."
The existence of carbyne was first theorized in the 19th century, and has since been detected in interstellar dust and created in small quantities by experimentalists.
Puzzle-maker slips 'Murdoch Is Evil' into Rupert Murdoch's Sunday Telegraph
Police: Sword-wielding man demanded free tacos