In Japan, a joint research group composed of members from RIKEN and National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) has successfully developed a composite material that exhibits a distinctive mechanical property. This material is brought forth by the outstanding applications of the concepts encountered in chemistry and physics. Materials science and engineering, nanotechnology, electricity and magnetism are the main fields of study used in the development of this new material.
The material is composed mainly of hydrogel, a type of gel that is a network of hydrophilic (highly absorbent with water) polymer chains. Hydrogel, as the matrix material, is reinforced with oxide nanosheets. The oxide nanosheets within the hydrogel are then aligned by application of a magnetic field. Upon arrangement, the nanosheets electrostatically repel each other in the direction perpendicular to the magnetic field, forming a three-dimensional nano-network structure inside the hydrogel.
“The new material withstands vertical loads applied in the direction perpendicular to its layers while distorting in the horizontal direction. It is promising as a vibration-damping material.”
The application of this newly developed material may seem impractical for now but in the near future, it is a major breakthrough in materials engineering in terms of developing structural materials. It is foreseen that in the future countless production of materials will proceed and these materials will continue to inhabit bigger amount of spaces in our environment. A material that does not occupy too much space will be a key goal of every engineer who aims to design a material. The discovery illustrated by the structurally reinforced hydrogel provides a significant insight for enhancing existing material properties without using massive reinforcements. The discovery that applied electricity and magnetism can be a factor to influence the properties of materials is a great innovation for both the...