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Polymer

The super gel's 'nano ropes,' linked together to form a net-like structure (Photo: Radboud...

Gelatins take on a semi-solid state when cool, and become a liquid when heated, right? Well, not always. Chemists from Radboud University Nijmegen, in The Netherlands, have created a “super gel” that behaves in the opposite manner – it’s liquid when cool, and stiffens when heated. What’s more, it reportedly absorbs water 100 times better than other gels. To make it, the researchers copied the protein structure of human cells.  Read More

NC State's self-healing elastic electrical wire

Last month, we heard about how a team led by North Carolina State University’s Dr. Michael Dickey had created an electrical wire that could be stretched up to eight times its regular length ... and still carry a current. This was possible thanks to a conductive liquid metal alloy of gallium and indium, contained inside the wire’s elastic polymer outer housing. Now, Dickey's team has developed a new wire that not only can be stretched, but that will heal itself when severed.  Read More

The new polymer film developed at MIT  that generates power from water vapor (Image: Ning ...

A team of researchers at MIT’s David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research has developed a new polymer film that generates power from water vapor. Consisting of two polymer films, the material makes remarkably acrobatic somersaults in the presence of even tiny traces of evaporated water, opening the way for new types of artificial muscles for controlling robotic limbs or powering micro and nanoscopic devices.  Read More

DNA hydrogel letters collapse, flow, and reform into their original shape

Every now and again, Cornell University Professor Dan Luo gets a surprise. His research team has discovered a new variety of hydrogel – like Jello, except made with DNA instead of gelatin. When full of water, it is a soft, elastic solid. But when the water is removed, the hydrogel collapses, losing its shape. The resulting material pours like a liquid, and conforms to the shape of its container. The most interesting part, however, is that the liquid hydrogel remembers its shape. Add water and you get back the original Jello-like shape. Terminator T-1000, anyone?  Read More

A new breakthrough could dramatically boost hard disk capacity (Photo: Vitaly Korovin/Shut...

A team of researchers at the University of Texas is working on a novel design that could circumvent some of the pressing limitations of current data storage technology and open the door to a new generation of very high-density, cheap and reliable hard disk drives.  Read More

The material repairs itself in about 30 minutes after being sliced in half with a scalpel ...

Our largest bodily organ is also one of the most remarkable. Not only is our skin pressure sensitive, it is also able to efficiently heal itself to provide a protective barrier between our insides and the world around us. While we’ve covered synthetic materials that can repair themselves or are pressure senstive, combining these properties in a single synthetic material has understandably proven more difficult. Now researchers at Stanford University have developed the first pressure-sensitive synthetic material that can heal itself when torn or cut, giving it potential for use in next-generation prostheses or self-healing electronic devices.  Read More

Fraunhofer's polymer-copper desalination pipes

In a typical desalination plant, pipes made from titanium or other expensive types of metal are an integral part of the process. Now, however, scientists have created a new type of piping material that is much cheaper to produce – potentially making desalination possible in countries that previously couldn’t afford it.  Read More

A PNIPAM mat, shown on the right, keeps a model house cooler than a mat made from conventi...

We're used to the thought of humans sweating to cool down, but what about buildings? Researchers at ETH Zurich have applied the biological cooling mechanism to the task of keeping a building cool, and in the process have hit upon a novel and inexpensive method of cooling houses which could prove useful for homes in both developed and emerging nations.  Read More

A newly-developed polymer might find use in the clean-up of oil spills  (Photo: Shuttersto...

As the Deepwater Horizon disaster showed us, we need to develop better ways of cleaning up oil spills. While many ideas have been put forth, scientists from Pennsylvania State University have come up with something that particularly shows promise – a polymer that soaks up 40 times its weight in oil.  Read More

Lettuce grown in transparent soil developed by researchers at the James Hutton Institute a...

Most people’s image of plants is actually upside down. For most of our photosynthetic friends, the majority of the plant is underground in the form of an intricate system of roots. The bit that sticks up is almost an afterthought. That’s a problem for scientists trying to study plants because growing them in media that allow you to see the roots, such as hydroponics, doesn't mimic real soil very well. Now, a team of researchers at the James Hutton Institute and the University of Abertay Dundee in Scotland has developed an artificial transparent soil that allows scientists to make detailed studies of root structures and subterranean soil ecology on a microscopic level.  Read More

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