Raleigh, North Carolina - Researchers have developed a fibre that combines the elasticity of rubber with the strength of a metal, which they say could find applications in areas such as robotics, packaging and textiles.
The team led by Dr. Michael Dickey, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the North Carolina State University, created fibres comprising a metal core surrounded by an elastic polymer sheath.
The core-shell fibre geometry comprises a core of gallium metal surrounded by a shell of poly(styrene-ethylene-butylene-styrene) (SEBS).
When the SEBS fibre is stretched, it has the strength of the metal core, but when the metal breaks, the fibre continues to slowly stretch, Dickey said in a press release issued by the university.
“Every time the metal core breaks it dissipates energy, allowing the fibre to continue to absorb energy as it elongates,” he explained
So, instead of snapping in two, the SEBS fibre can stretch up to seven times its original length before failure, while causing many additional breaks in the wire along the way.
“This is only a proof of concept, but it holds a lot of potential,” said Dickey. “We are interested to see how these fibres could be used in soft robotics or when woven into textiles.”
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