One would usually not think that a fabric could be harder than carbon steel but still easy to bend and stretch. But that’s exactly what researchers from Hokkaido University in Japan has accomplished.
It is a new hydrogel material reinforced with fibers called as the fiber-reinforced soft composite or FRSC. Hydrogels, as the name suggests, have high levels of water, and they were combined with glass fiber fabric.
Two or more materials being combined are the staple of engineers and scientists in producing stronger, better materials by optimizing their properties. Straw and mud make bricks, while cement, aggregates and water make concrete.
One of the researchers Jian Ping Gong said that the material has multiple potential applications because of its reliability, durability and flexibility.
That’s thanks to the hydrogels which could bear heavy loads and resistant to fractures, and the glass fiber fabric with its extra durability and toughness.
According to the team, the strength of the composite material comes from dynamic ionic bonds – atoms attracted to each other as electrons get swapped – acting between the fiber and the hydrogels, and within the hydrogels themselves.
In their tests in the laboratory, they increased the toughness of the hydrogels and found that it goes along with the overall toughness of FRSC. This principle, the researchers shared, applies in other soft component like rubber which was previously studied in the same university.
Now they have the unbelievable composite material – FRSC is 25 times tougher than glass fiber fabric, 100 times tougher than hydrogels, and 5 times as strong as carbon, speaking in terms of the energy required to break them.
Applications of this new material covers medicine, where artificial ligaments and tendons can be designed to help the body heal, and in the manufacturing where a tough but elastic material may be required.
Source: Hokkaido University