Hyrdogels, chains of polymers that are very absorbent, are great. They’re what your contact lenses are made out of, because they have properties very similar to that of human tissues. They were also a revolution in treating burns, where they serve as a far more effective bandage than traditional cloth or rubber ones.
One problem, though, that contacts also demonstrate: Hydrogels are fragile. They tend to tear easily, and as a result, they’re not really good for using to replace human tissue inside the body. They’d just rip apart if you used them for, say, replacing tendons or other parts of the body.
Which is why researchers at Harvard have done something worthy of their school’s snooty reputation and built a hydrogel that can stretch to twenty times its length.
They pulled this off by the surprisingly simple idea of mixing two polymers together. The two were crosslinked thanks to different bonds, and the result is the toughest hydrogel made yet.
This isn’t just a revolution in Stretch Armstrong design. This essentially allows hydrogels to be used in a much wider range of medical applications, and improves those areas where they’re already in use. For example, they’re used to replace cartilage, and now we’ve got something much tougher for the knees of old people.
Yes, it will also probably turn up in toys.
I want more like this!
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