Ultra-Tough Nanotech Materials
Researchers have used clay nanoparticles to modify a polymer material, making it 20 times stiffer, 4 times tougher, and able to withstand temperatures that are more than twice as hot. The new materials could eventually be used in rugged lightweight fabrics, less-bulky packing materials, and much lighter car parts.
The work is part of a growing effort to design materials with nanoscale structures that mimic those found in nature, such as those in ultra-strong seashells. (See "Silicon and Sun.") In the current work, researchers at MIT's program in polymer science and technology greatly improved the properties of an elastic polyurethane used in biomedical applications by dispersing tiny clay particles throughout it.