Whether it is a concrete beam supporting a building or a small adhesive-like piece of scotch tape holding together some decoratives, we are always of the view that materials become weaker as they get old. A new creation at the University of Chicago has changed this perspective or idea of materials getting weaker as they age. The team has developed a novel type of gel that increases its adhesive capabilities over time. The new material is said to get stronger with more vibrations and stress. It follows our bones’ concept that gets strengthened over time with adapting to a load of a person’s mass.
“Every other material becomes weaker when vibrated,” says Aaron Esser-Kahn, who led the research team. “This is the first time we have reversed that process, showing that a material can strengthen itself with mechanical vibration.”
This adaptive nature of our bone structure inspired Esser-Kahn and his team’s project for innovative adhesive. Another part of the super adhesive is derived from the process known as the ‘piezoelectric effect.’ It is a process that can be done with materials and devices that use mechanical stress and vibrations in favor to increase the firmness by converting the movement into electrical charge. Previously, it is seen how this technology is used in shoes, roads, and computer keyboards. However, the UC team says this specific application to be the first of its kind.
The team began with the idea that a charge produced using the piezoelectric effect can be used to ignite a reaction within a material that makes it stronger. The team experimented with different chemical equations in an attempt to produce a gel with the desired properties. The team tested various chemicals before reaching the final perfect mix. The final gel is a mix of polymer with thio-lene reactors, zinc oxide, and piezoelectric particles.
The novel material gets stronger with vibration. It contains the particles that transduce energy and ignite a thio-lene reaction, resulting in new cross-links in the material. While testing the novel material, the team converted the soft get into a material that equals a human bone’s strength. It grows in stiffness with getting more vibration and movement. The material proved evidently that as much stress as it received, it grew stronger.
“Just like bone, the material strengthened to the exact amount of power we put into it,” Esser-Kahn said.
The team finds many possibilities with the new material, including buildings built with it would grow stronger over time. Another key utility of the new material is its applicability in aerospace engineering to join different materials together.
“This could hugely influence adhesives,” Esser-Kahn said. “Adhesives are almost always the point of failure in materials. This could lead to specialized adhesives that adhere and set much better.”