Scientists make hydrogel material five times stronger than steel

A team of Japanese researchers has succeeded in creating a reinforced hydrogel material. A fabric that is both highly flexible and five times stronger than steel.

Designing new materials is a big challenge for scientists looking to give them as many benefits as possible to expand their potential applications. It is in this perspective that a team from the University of Hokkaido in Japan has designed an invention for the least innovative. At first sight, their creation looks like a simple square of fabric.

Except that it is highly flexible, stretchable and stronger than metal. The secret of this material lies in its composition which combines hydrogels containing a high concentration of water and a fabric made of glass fibers with a diameter of about 10 micrometers. Five times stronger than carbon steel Hydrogels such as fiberglass fabric have some strength as well as advantageous properties. Combining the two has allowed to combine these features and strengthen the strength of the whole.

According to the study published in January in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, the hydrogels obtained fibers would be 25 times more resistant than the fiber fabric alone and 100 times more than the other hydrogels, if we consider the energy required for them.

Scientists believe that this resistance comes in part from the dynamic ionic bonds that are established between the fibers and the hydrogels in which they are immersed, but also inside the hydrogels themselves. “As a result, newly developed hydrogels are five times stronger than carbon steel,” says a University statement. Many applications Hydrogels are already used in many fields, including in the biomedical field because they have the particularity of being biocompatible and non-toxic.

Nevertheless, their limited strength has been an obstacle for some applications.
Hence the interest of the invention of Japanese researchers. “The material has many potential applications because of its reliability, strength and flexibility,” said Pr. Jian Ping Gong who led the work. “For example, in addition to uses in fashion and industry, it could be used as artificial ligaments or tendons, tissues that are subjected to high stress” to support the weight of the body.

According to this specialist, the principle they used could also be applied to other materials such as rubber to increase its strength. “This work provides a good guide to the design of fiber-reinforced composite materials with extraordinary ability to withstand fracture,” concludes the team in its study.

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