Novel smart materials change color and opacity when stretched

Marine animals such as squid, cuttlefish, and octopus can display incredible patterns of colors by selectively contracting individual muscles to activate pigment-containing cells below their skin. Inspired by this novel capability, researchers from the University of Connecticut have created color and transparency changing materials that alter their properties in response to mechanical force. Known collectively as mechanocromics, these materials might be used to create everything from smart windows to physical encryption devices.Read More


Sweet technique inspired by bonbons yields better polymer shells

Inspired by a centuries-old technique used by chocolatiers to create chocolate shells for bonbons and other sweets, engineers have developed a new technique for making polymer films that are both uniform and predictable. According to the researchers, the new theory and method can not only allow confectioners to precisely control the thickness of bonbon casings, but can be more generally applied to create polymer shells for everything from drug capsules to rocket bodies.Read More


Transforming metamaterial alters size, volume, and shape on command

Harvard researchers have created a 3D programmable mechanical metamaterial that can be programmed to change shape, volume and size on command, making it ideal for building a range of different assemblies and structures that can be automatically altered to suit their purpose or environment. Claimed to be able to take the weight of an elephant when laid flat, the new material could be used to make everything from tiny self-deploying nanostructures for use in medical procedures, all the way up to large buildings that are able to metamorphose for different purposes on command. Read More


Thinnest, lightest, solar cells ever created outperform their bulky glass brethren

Using gossamer-like layers of flexible polymers, researchers at MIT have created the thinnest and lightest solar cells ever made. Just one-fiftieth the thickness of a human hair, and capable of producing up to 6 watts of power per gram, these cells are so thin and light that they can be supported on the surface of a soap bubble without breaking it. With such impressive credentials, the prototype cells have the potential to add solar power to everything from paper-based electronics through to all manner of mobile devices and exceptionally lightweight wearables. Read More


Stretchable polymer reverts back to original shape when triggered by body heat

Shape memory materials that can revert back into a desired form after being bent, twisted and stretched are finding their way into a number of applications, ranging from sports bras to more efficient refrigerators. One team of scientists is now examining potential biomedical applications, with a polymer that can revert to its original form when it comes into contact with heat from the human body.Read More


Hybrid polymer shows promise in self-repairing materials, smart drug delivery, and artificial muscles

We live in an age of plastics, but even after a century of progress, most polymers still come in a single, homogenous form with basic properties. Now a team of researchers at Northwestern University under the leadership of materials scientist Samuel Stupp have developed a hybrid polymer that combines soft and hard areas like bones and muscles in animals. According to the team, this breakthrough in nanoengineering opens the door to applications ranging from self-repairing materials to artificial muscles.Read More


Biodegradable implant could simplify bone replacement surgery

Combining cornstarch with volcanic ash clay to create a plastic for bone grafts could make the surgical process of bone replacement much simpler in the future. Researchers say the material could replace the need to remove bone from another part of a patient's body, or to use donor cadaver bones that are limited in supply.Read More


New material created from orange peel cleans up mercury pollution

Since the beginning of the industrial age, mercury pollution has increased steadily in our environment, particularly in rivers and oceans. As a result, high-level predators in our waterways often contain very high levels of mercury, and eating fish containing this neurotoxin can lead to serious health issues. Now Australian scientists working at Flinders University have discovered a simple and efficient way to remove mercury from the environment by using a material made from recycled waste citrus peel.
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Additive could keep jet fuel from exploding in crashes

Living through an airliner crash involves more than just surviving the initial impact – many people are also killed by the flames and smoke that follow when the jet fuel ignites. Researchers at Caltech, however, are trying to minimize the chances of that second part happening. They've developed an additive that helps reduce the intensity of postimpact fuel fires.Read More


Self-healing bioplastic – just add water

Imagine if things like undersea cables or medical implants could simply heal themselves back together if severed – it would certainly be easier than having to go in and fix them. Well, scientists at Pennsylvania State University are bringing such a possibility closer to reality. They've created a moldable polymer that heals itself when exposed to water – and it's based on squid sucker ring teeth.Read More


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