We’ve all seen hard plastics and soft plastics, but can plastics be both at the same time? Researchers at the University of Texas have developed a first-of-a-kind material that possesses both soft and hard structural components.
Inspired by living things like trees Leather, muscle, and shellfish that can be stiff in some places and flexible in others, researchers developed this material.
Researchers developed this material using only light and a catalyst
“This is the first material of its type,” said Zachariah Page, assistant professor of chemistry and corresponding author on the paper. “The ability to control crystallization, and therefore the physical properties of the material, with the application of light is potentially transformative for wearable electronics or actuators in soft robotics.”
According to the researchers, the resultant material produced is 10 times as tough as natural rubber. Scientists foresee a broad range of applications for his innovative material. These could include anchoring electronic components in wearable tech or medical devices and increasing the strength and flexibility of robots.
“We are looking forward to exploring methods of applying this chemistry towards making 3D objects containing both hard and soft components,” said first author Adrian Rylski.