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Feb 12, 2016 10:22 AM EST

Scientists Develop Ultra-Tough Polymer That Can Reshape With Just a Touch

Supersonic air travel could be making a comeback

Researchers at the University of Rochester have developed an ultra-tough polymer that can change its shape when introduced to body heat.

"Tuning the trigger temperature is only one part of the story," Mitch Anthamatten, a chemical engineer at UR who lead the research, said in a press release. "We also engineered these materials to store large amount of elastic energy, enabling them to perform more mechanical work during their shape recovery."

The polymer seems straight out of a sci-fi story, as it can reshape itself with just a touch, but can also carry objects 1,000 times its weight. The example the UR release gave was a shoelace-sized piece of the polymer being able to hold a liter of soda.

"Our shape-memory polymer is like a rubber band that can lock itself into a new shape when stretched," Anthamatten said. "But a simple touch causes it to recoil back to its original shape.

"Nearly all applications of shape memory polymers will require that the material pushes or pulls on its surroundings.

"However, researchers seldom measure the amount of mechanical work that shape-memory polymers are actually performing."

(Source: University of Rochester)

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