Gallium

Scientists draw from nature to build a material that is both stiff and tough—a rarity in material science

In material science, it is difficult to engineer a material that is both highly stiff and tough. In the past, scientists have increased the stiffness of soft polymers by adding nano-sized particles of stiff materials (e.g. carbon nanotubes, silica), but this does not increase the toughness. Drawing inspiration from structures in nature that are both stiff and tough, scientists injected a flexible elastomer disc with pockets of liquid gallium. Compared to control structures, the addition of liquid gallium significantly increased the stiffness and toughness of the overall structure. While this study leaves us with several questions, it demonstrates that putting liquid inside of solid doesn’t necessarily make the combined material softer, thus contradicting a long-standing theory in the material-science world. Continue reading Scientists draw from nature to build a material that is both stiff and tough—a rarity in material science