Japanese Researchers Create New Fiber-Reinforced Hydrogel That Is 5 Times Tougher Than Steel

Hydrogel Fiber

A team of researchers from the Hokkaido University in Japan has created an eco-friendly material that is flexible but five-times stronger than carbon steel. The ‘fiber-reinforced soft composite’ has been made by combining polyampholyte with a woven glass fiber. It is an extremely durable and bendable material. Its strength and flexibility make it suitable for a variety of applications, the best of which is bearing the load of artificial ligaments and tendons.

Electron Microscope view of fiber
Source: Hokkaido University

A variety of applications require the use of hydrogels, may these be soft robots or dressings for wounds. The use of these hydrogels was limited because hydrogels are always soft as they comprise mostly of water. The same hydrogels, when woven together with a fabric of glass fiber, become stronger than even steel. The strength and flexibility are not the only benefits of hydrogels; they come with a bonus of being environment-friendly.

Dr. Jianinnovation explained,

“The fiber-reinforced hydrogels, with a 40 percent water level, are environmentally friendly.”

He added,

“The material has multiple potential applications because of its reliability, durability, and flexibility. For example, in addition to fashion and manufacturing uses, it could be used as artificial ligaments and tendons, which are subject to strong load-bearing tensions.”

The dynamic ionic bonds between fiber and hydrogels give the material its strength. The gel when combined with glass fiber, produces a strong tensile material which is a hundred times stronger than hydrogels, 25-times stronger than the constituent glass fabric and five times stronger than carbon steel.

However, this material is not the only one stronger than steel as researchers have already developed several materials from time to time with a comparable hardness.

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