Researchers at the University of Rochester have developed a material that can shift shapes and lift a staggering amount of weight.
Scientists at the University of Rochester have made a fascinating development. According to a report from CNET, researchers have designed a new polymer that is just too strange to be true. The polymer can shift shape when it contacts a person’s body heat, becoming strong enough to lift 1,000 times its own mass.
Chemical engineer Mitch Anthamatten appears in a video where he explains how the material can morph into new shapes and stay that way until it contacts a person’s body. “Our shape-memory polymer is like a rubber band that can lock itself into a new shape when stretched,” he said. “But a simple touch causes it to recoil back to its original shape.”
What could we possibly use a material like this for? Anthamatten says that it could have surgical applications, and could be incorporated into a whole new generation of spandex outerwear.
The material can also be set to shift shapes at a range of different temperatures, but perhaps the most fascinating part about the new material is its strength. Anthamatten explained that the material can store a large amount of elastic energy, which can be transferred into mechanical work as the material returns to its original shape.
When body temperature triggers the material to recoil, the stored elastic energy is released and transferred into mechanical energy. The team was able to use a polymer no longer than a shoelace to lift an entire liter of soda.
While the material sounds more like the wonder suit a comic-book superhero would wear, it may actually prove extremely useful in the real world. Anthamatten hopes that the polymer can be used to create medical products like artificial skin, body-heat assisted dispensers and self-fitting clothing. As with most innovative ideas, however, the wildest applications for the material are likely yet to be found.
A press release from the University of Rochester describing the details of the study can be found here.