Scientists develop tougher fiber like rubber plus metal

Source:Xinhua Published: 2019/2/23 9:59:13

American scientists engineered a tougher fiber as flexible as rubber bands but as strong as metal wires, which can be used in soft robotics or next generation textiles.

The study published on Friday in the journal Science Advances described the fibers made of a gallium metal core surrounded by an elastic polymer sheath, like human bones held together by tissues.

"A rubber band can stretch very far, but it doesn't take much force to stretch it," said Michael Dickey, the paper's corresponding author and a professor at North Carolina State University.

"A metal wire requires a lot of force to stretch it, but it can't take much strain. It breaks before you can stretch it very far. Our fibers have the best of both worlds," said Dickey.

The fiber has the strength of the metal core, but when the metal breaks, the polymer sheath can absorb the strain between the breaks, according to the study.

Instead of snapping in two when stretched, it can stretch up to seven times its original length before failure, said Dickey.

The fiber can release energy repeatedly through internal breaks, and lower the weight slowly and steadily, according to the study.

Also, the gallium core is conductive, though it loses its conductivity when the internal core breaks. The fibers can be reused by melting the metal cores back together.

"We are interested to see how these fibers could be used in soft robotics or when woven into textiles for various applications," said Dickey.

Posted in: ENERGY

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