Scientists create “super jelly”: it can become as strong as safety glass when crushed by a car
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hydrogel has attracted great interest of materials scientists. Their high moisture content makes them suitable for use in the human body and gives them tensile and self-healing properties – for robots, advanced contact lenses, artificial tissues and wound healing. The researchers in the new study tried to expand these capabilities by adjusting the basic molecular structure
Dr. zehuan Huang, the first author of the study, said: “In order to make the material have the mechanical properties we want, we use a crosslinking agent, that is, two molecules are connected by chemical bonds. We use reversible crosslinking agents to make soft and elastic hydrogels, but making hard and compressible hydrogels is very difficult. Designing a material with these characteristics is totally counter intuitive.”
to achieve this goal, scientists turned to barrel molecules called gourd silk, which “copy” other molecules in pairs In its cavity. Then, they used specially designed molecules to stay in the cavity longer than usual, which has the effect of keeping the network closely connected and enabling it to change from a rubber like state to a state similar to super hard shatterproof glass.
according to the research team, this makes “super jelly” It can withstand the force equivalent to an elephant standing on it without being crushed. Since there is no elephant on hand, the team tested the material by rolling it with a car, which proved how it can return to its original shape.
Professor Oren a. Scherman, who led the study, pointed out: “At 80% water content, you think it will burst like water polo, but it doesn’t: it stays intact and bears tremendous pressure. The properties of hydrogels seem to be contradictory.”
scientists have also used this new material to make a pressure sensor for human movement such as standing, walking and jumping. They are now continuing to develop this material in order to adapt it to biomedical applications such as cartilage replacement – and potential soft robot technology.
“As far as we know, this is the first time to produce hydrogels similar to glass. We are not just writing new things into textbooks. This is really exciting, and we have opened a new chapter in the field of high-performance soft materials,” Huang said.