Duke University researchers have discovered microscopic tears in a new kind of man-made material may help the substance bulk up like a bodybuilder at the gym.
"We've shown how normally destructive mechanical forces can be channeled to bring about stronger materials," said Duke chemist Steve Craig, who led the research. "The material responses are like Silly Putty transforming into a solid as stiff as the cap of a pen or a runny liquid transforming into soft Jell-O."
Scientists could one day use the stress-induced strength from these new materials to make better fluids such as engine oil, or soft-structure substances such as artificial heart valves. Materials like this wear out over time because of the repeated mechanical forces they experience during use. But Craig said if a material had properties to slow down its destruction, it would greatly improve quality of life.
It is the first time scientists have used force-induced chemistry within a material to make it stronger in response to stress, according to Duke University. The results were published Aug. 5 in Nature Chemistry.
The research received funding from the Army Research Office, with additional support from the National Science Foundation.
For more information, visit http://phys.org/news/2013-08-materials-remake-bonds-strength.html.