Duke’s Plastic Fantastics: Team Develops New “Mechanophore” Plastic That Actually Gets Stronger Under Pressure

170px-Duke_Blue_Devil_mascot_cropped220px-Two_small_test_tubes_held_in_spring_clampsThere is a very cool discovery to report this week out of Duke University, now to be known as those “Plastic Fantastics.” The team has invented a “mechanophore” a material that responds to mechanical force rather than light, heat or chemical exposure. In this case, they have invested a plastic that actually gets stronger when it is stressed. That’s right. As mechanical force or pressure is add, it gets stronger — a breakthrough that could transform material for cellphones, medical devices, prosthetic limbs etc.

The researchers constructed a unique structure with carbon atoms arranged in a series of triangles extending down in long chains with two bromine atoms at one point. This succeeded in turning “destructive” energy into “constructive” energy. When the chains are pressured or tugged, they tear on one side and this breaks the triangle into a longer chain, which allowed for new bonding sites at the bromine locations for a second molecule to come in. This bonding is made possible by a molecule called a carboxylate that increases the material’s strength at the site of damage. The result was that the plastic transforms under pressure from pliable to stiff. What is even cooler is that the material, when dissolved in a solution, still reformed as a layer on the side of the container. It is the plastic version of Flubber.

Well done Duke, you little Blue Devils. (I will get a little suspicious however if the Duke team begins to take giant leaps from across the court.)

This work appears the result of a key encounter by one of the team members after his college graduation at a family party. The moment was caught on tape in what turned out to be a life changing piece of advice:

Source: Extreme Tech

11 thoughts on “Duke’s Plastic Fantastics: Team Develops New “Mechanophore” Plastic That Actually Gets Stronger Under Pressure”

  1. @Jude Yep, to sports equipment.

    Plastic body armor or lightweight helicopter armor? If the substance is or can be clear, safety lenses to protect eyes? Automotive body panels?

    In a short while, I think commenters could brainstorm all sorts of ideas.

  2. Why change the statue of a founder? Smoking was part of his image, clearly. No need for political correctness on that one.

    But yes, this seems like it’d be great for helmets and sports safety equipment.

  3. There is a statue out front of Duke of a founder named Duke who is shown smoking. Maybe they can advance a bit and remove the cig. The plastic can be used for football helmets.

  4. Maybe they can use some of this new plastic……… to create a ”Backbone” for our President?????????

  5. AY,

    Compression fittings for one. I’m sure there are many applications for a material that grows stronger under pressure.

Comments are closed.