The tough, stretchy material could be used in medicine and the military
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Spotted: A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have mimicked the strength and flexibility of a lobster’s underbelly in a new artificial hydrogel. The hydrogel may be able to replace damaged tendons and ligaments, providing patients with incredibly strong yet flexible and lightweight surgical options. In the military and elsewhere, the combination of strength with durability might provide a range of additional protections.
Inspired by the lobster’s ability to stretch without breaking, the scientists created a nanofibrous hydrogel significantly less likely to crack or tear than current versions. The nanofibre films that make up the hydrogel are built from a combination of electric charges and high humidity. After discovering the bouligand structure (materials stacked at 36-degree angles) of the lobster’s underbelly, the team arranged its films in the same way to create the final product.
In stretch tests, the new material proved to be up to 50 times stronger than the artificial hydrogels that are now available. The researchers also used micro ballistic impact tests to further examine the strength of the new material. They found it to be as strong or stronger than Kevlar in a number of categories.
Written by: Keely Khoury