Plasteel? UM's New Ultrastrong Nanocomposite
An ultrastrong and stiff layered polymer nanocomposite created by University of Michigan researchers is science-fictional stuff. Engineering professor Nicholas Kotov almost called it "plastic steel."
"When you tried to build something you can hold in your arms, scientists had difficulties transferring the strength of individual nanosheets or nanotubes to the entire material," Kotov said. "We've demonstrated that one can achieve almost ideal transfer of stress between nanosheets and a polymer matrix."
Reearchers used a robotic machine to carefully build up this layered material one nanoscale layer at a time.
The robotic machine consists of an arm that hovers over a wheel of vials of different liquids. In this case, the arm held a piece of glass about the size of a stick of gum on which it built the new material. The arm dipped the glass into the glue-like polymer solution and then into a liquid that was a dispersion of clay nanosheets. After those layers dried, the process repeated. It took 300 layers of each the glue-like polymer and the clay nanosheets to create a piece of this material as thick as a piece of plastic wrap.
The glue-like polymer used in this experiment, which is polyvinyl alcohol, was as important as the layer-by-layer assembly process. The structure of the "nanoglue" and the clay nanosheets allowed the layers to form cooperative hydrogen bonds, which gives rise to what Kotov called "the Velcro effect." Such bonds, if broken, can reform easily in a new place.
Readers remembered the plasteel from Frank Herbert's Dune novels:
Then Kynes was beside Paul and they threw their weight against the door... Kynes indicated the cabinets against the right-hand wall, said: "This way." He crossed to the first cabinet, opened a drawer, manipulated a handle within it. The entire wall of cabinets swung open to expose the black mouth of a tunnel. "This door also is plasteel," Kynes said.
"You were well prepared," Jessica said.
"We lived under the Harkonnens for eighty years," Kynes said.
(Read more about plasteel)
Older fans may recall that Harlan Ellison used it first in his 1956 story Trojan Hearse. Ancient fans might remember that the term "plasteel" was first used in WWII and referred to steel covered with plastic used to replace precious aluminum (needed for the war effort).
Not to wear out your memory, but the material is also transparent, according to the press release. This has fans salivating for the fabled transparent aluminum of the Star Trek universe.
The real-life nanocomposite material could be used to create lighter, stronger armor for soldiers; it could also have applications in microelectromechanical devices, microfluidics, biomedical sensors and valves and unmanned aircraft, according to Professor Kotov.
Via U-M research: New plastic is strong as steel. Thanks to readers Pipedreamergrey and Miez for writing in with this one.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/5/2007)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )
Related News Stories -
Amphibio 3D Printed Gill Shirt
'... we can descend and live down there at one of those year-round aquatic resorts.' - Philip K. Dick, 1966.
Self-Healing Circuits From Carnegie Mellon
'It even had an inter-skin layer of gum that could seal the punctures...'- Raymond Z. Gallun, 1951.
Dune Fans! Metal-Organic Frameworks Make Science Fiction Real
'Dew collectors,' he muttered, enchanted by the simple beauty of such a scheme. - Frank Herbert, 1965.
Fungi-Infused Concrete Repairs Itself
'I noticed that curious mottled knots were forming, indicating where the room had been strained and healed faultily.'- J.G. Ballard, 1962.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Sleeep PRO Earplug For Maximum Rest
'Merton... placed the electrodes of the sleep-inducer on his forehead.'
Inspired By Japan, Nap Pods For Hajj
It's always a good time for a nap.
Amphibio 3D Printed Gill Shirt
'... we can descend and live down there at one of those year-round aquatic resorts.'
How Do You Put An Asteroid Into Earth Orbit? Carefully!
'...she would have to be coaxed by another series of pats into a circular orbit.'
PD Aerospace Space Plane By 2023
'The sleek, tapered space shuttle lay immobile upon the private landing field...'
Foldimate Folds Your Clothes Perfectly
Look ma, my room is clean! I can hear you now.
Robots Help People Get Dressed, As Predicted In 1931
Yes, people of the future, robots will dress you.
International Space Station Leak Plugged - With Finger
'These tag-alongs search out stray leaks.'
Robot Snake Flies, Fights Fires
Just a prototype, but still amazing.
IPAL Chinese Robot Babysitter
'But Nanny is different...'
ZKZM-500 LASER Assault Rifle
'The Iranian reached back into the locker and got a pair of laserifles.'
LA Subway Scanner, As Seen In 'Total Recall'
'I'm afraid to tell you this Mr. Quaid, but you have suffered a schizoed embolism...'
Sion Electric Car Covered With Solar Panels
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'
PAL-V Liberty Flying Helicopter Car
'...lifted themselves to skimming flight upon whirling helicopters."
Space Drones - UK's Effective Space To Launch Rocket Tugs
'Twenty rocket tugs towed it from its Earth hangar out into space.'
DIY Autonomous Robot Detects Trash
'The search-bug detached itself and rolled forward.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories