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Material that thickens when stretched may lead to better body armor

by • May 2, 2016 • No Comments

Normally when a material is stretched it thins out, and when it is actually compressed it thickens up. Chemists at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) have only engineered a substance that does precisely the opposite, and it may lead to advantageous bullet-proof materials – or improved running shoes.

The researchers turn it intod their material by working with a protein called RhuA, that has a square molecular shape. By laying out the proteins and connecting them at their corners, they turn it intod a grid pattern that turn it intod a sheet-like crystal.

When that crystal is stretched or compacted the protein tiles rotate in the opposite way of the force, that gives it its one-of-a-kind property. It’s a bit like a checkerboard where all the squares can flip up. If the checkerboard was stretched, the tiles may move to a vertical position, thus thickening the playing field. When compacted, the tiles flip to a horizontal position, producing the material thinner when saw of the side. This property is known as “auxetic.”

“The crystals form perfectly with approximately no tiles missing or ajar, and the material is self-healing,” says a UCSD report of the research. “Protein tiles easily pop into place, given the right chemical conditions.”

As examples of how the material may one day be utilized, the report says it may be turn it intod into the soles of running shoes that may thicken instead of spreading out when striking the pavement, or it may be utilized to turn it into body armor that may thicken when stretched of the force of a bullet.

“These materials are quite effortless to manufacture, yet provide most new research ways both in terms of materials applications and belief the important principles of nanoscale self-assembly,” says Akif Tezcan, a UCSD professor of chemistry and biochemistry who led the research.

A paper describing the strange material was published online in the journal Nature this week.

Source: UCSD

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