For a longest time, we always compared hard things to steel. Did you know a material harder than steel?
The researchers from Japan has invented a soft and flexible material that is stronger than steel proving that looks can be deceiving definitely comes to mind when considering a new material developed by researchers from the Hokkaido University.
The material looks soft and squishy — which it is — but it’s as tough as metal. In fact, its researchers say it’s five times stronger than carbon steel, while at the same time having the flexibility of rubber.
According to the developers, the reinforced material is a product of combining hydrogels, typically found in products like contact lenses, with glass fibers.
The result is a tough but bendable mesh that’s built to maximize resilience. “It’s the strongest soft material ever obtained by human beings,” lead researcher Jian Ping Gong told CNN.
Gong also said that the new fiber-reinforced composite demonstrates “extremely high toughness and tensile properties, far superior to those of the neat components, indicating a synergistic effect,” the team wrote in their research, which was published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.
To destroy tge materi based on the developers, the fiber-reinforced hydrogel is about 100 times tougher than regular hydrogels, and 25 times stronger than ordinary glass fiber fabric.
The inspiration for the material, Gong explained, comes from nature. “Sometimes when I see a flower coming out from a very hard floor — concrete crack — I was wondering why the small flower, such a small lovely flower, has such a big large energy to come out,” she told CNN.
“This gel itself looks very soft and weak but it can create a huge amount of energies,” Gong said.
With today’s more advanced engineering and design technologies, scientists have been experimenting with a number of materials to come up with so-called metamaterials.
These are synthetic composites of existing materials with properties not found in their original components. Research in this field has led to the development of several shape-shifting metamaterials. One can be used for charging devices wirelessly, and another that moves using light.
The Japanese fiber-reinforced hydrogel, on the other hand, offers even more potential applications.
“The material has multiple potential applications because of its reliability, durability and flexibility. For example, in addition to fashion and manufacturing uses, it could be used as artificial ligaments and tendons, which are subject to strong load-bearing tensions,” Gong said in a press release.