from the Charlotte's-[new]-web? dept.
Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:
Inspired by extremely strong spider silk, researchers at NTNU have developed a new material that defies previously seen trade-offs between toughness and stiffness.
The material is a type of polymer known as an elastomer because it has a rubber-like elasticity. The newly developed elastomer features molecules that have eight hydrogen bonds in one repeat unit, and it is these bonds that help to evenly distribute stress put on the material and make it so durable.
"The eight hydrogen bonds are the origin of the extraordinary mechanical properties," says Zhiliang Zhang, professor of mechanics and materials at NTNU's Department of Structural Engineering. The material was developed at NTNU NanoLab and partially funded by the Research Council of Norway.
The idea to introduce a higher than usual number of hydrogen bonds came from nature. "Spider silk contains the same kind of structure," says Yizhi Zhuo, who developed the new material as part of his Ph.D. and postdoc work. "We knew it could result in very special properties."
Scientists have previously noted that spider silk—specifically dragline silk, which provides the spokes and outer rim of a spider's web—is both exceptionally stiff and tough.
Stiffness and toughness are distinct properties in engineering, and are often in opposition. Stiff materials can withstand a lot of stress before deforming, whereas tough materials can absorb a lot of energy before they break.