‘Super jelly’ can survive being run over by a car

‘Super jelly’ can survive being run over by a car

The soft-yet-strong product, established by a group at the University of Cambridge, feels and look like a squishy jelly, however imitates an ultra-hard, unbreakable glass when compressed, regardless of its high water material.

The non-water part of the product is a network of polymers held together by reversible on/off interactions that manage the product’s mechanical homes. This is the very first time that such considerable resistance to compression has actually been included into a soft product.

The ‘extremely jelly’ might be utilized for a vast array of prospective applications, consisting of soft robotics, bioelectronics or perhaps as a cartilage replacement for biomedical usage. The outcomes are reported in the journal Nature Materials

The method products act– whether they’re soft or company, breakable or strong– depends on their molecular structure. Stretchy, rubber-like hydrogels have great deals of intriguing residential or commercial properties that make them a popular topic of research study– such as their strength and self-healing abilities– however making hydrogels that can endure being compressed without getting crushed is a difficulty.

” In order to make products with the mechanical residential or commercial properties we desire, we utilize crosslinkers, where 2 particles are signed up with through a chemical bond,” stated Dr Zehuan Huang from the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, the research study’s very first author. “We utilize reversible crosslinkers to make soft and elastic hydrogels, however making a tough and compressible hydrogel is challenging and developing a product with these residential or commercial properties is entirely counterproductive.”

Working in the laboratory of Professor Oren A. Scherman, who led the research study, the group utilized barrel-shaped particles called cucurbiturils to make a hydrogel that can endure compression. The cucurbituril is the crosslinking particle that holds 2 visitor particles in its cavity– like a molecular handcuff. The scientists developed visitor particles that choose to remain inside the cavity for longer than typical, which keeps the polymer network securely connected, permitting it to stand up to compression.

” At 80%water material, you ‘d believe it would break apart like a water balloon, however it does not: it remains undamaged and endures big compressive forces,” stated Scherman, Director of the University’s Melville Laboratory for Polymer Synthesis “The homes of the hydrogel are apparently at chances with each other.”

” The method the hydrogel can stand up to compression was unexpected, it wasn’t like anything we’ve seen in hydrogels,” stated co-author Dr Jade McCune, likewise from the Department of Chemistry. “We likewise discovered that the compressive strength might be quickly managed through just altering the chemical structure of the visitor particle inside the handcuff.”

To make their glass-like hydrogels, the group picked particular visitor particles for the handcuff. Changing the molecular structure of visitor particles within the handcuff permitted the characteristics of the product to ‘decrease’ substantially, with the mechanical efficiency of the last hydrogel varying from rubber-like to glass-like states.

” People have actually invested years making rubber-like hydrogels, however that’s simply half of the image,” stated Scherman. “We’ve reviewed conventional polymer physics and developed a brand-new class of products that cover the entire variety of product homes from rubber-like to glass-like, finishing the complete photo.”

The scientists utilized the product to make a hydrogel pressure sensing unit for real-time tracking of human movements, consisting of standing, strolling and leaping.

” To the very best of our understanding, this is the very first time that glass-like hydrogels have actually been made. We’re not simply composing something brand-new into the books, which is truly amazing, however we’re opening a brand-new chapter in the location of high-performance soft products,” stated Huang.

Researchers from the Scherman laboratory are presently working to more establish these glass-like products towards biomedical and bioelectronic applications in partnership with specialists from engineering and products science. The research study was moneyed in part by the Leverhulme Trust and a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship. Oren Scherman is a Fellow of Jesus College.


Zehuan Huang et al. ‘ Highly compressible glass-like supramolecular polymer networks‘ Nature Materials (2021). DOI: 10.1038/ s41563-021-01124- x

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