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posted by janrinok on Sunday October 10, @11:04PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the I-feel-the-need-for-speed! dept.

People in the U.S. pay more for slower internet than European, Canadian, and Asian counterparts, according to the Open Technology Institute:

A survey conducted earlier this year by the Pew Research Center found that 7% of Americans lack access to reliable broadband. One reason for this may be how expensive internet access is in the U.S.

"People in the U.S. pay more for slower internet than people abroad," Open Technology Institute policy analyst Claire Park said. "For many consumers, the cost of getting online right now is simply too high and also too complicated."

The Open Technology Institute has been studying the price and speed of internet services advertised within the United States as well as abroad. Its 2020 Cost of Connectivity Report found that the average advertised monthly cost of internet in the U.S. is $68.38, which is higher than the average price of internet access for all of North America, Europe and Asia.

Outdated infrastructure in the U.S. may also be impeding internet access to millions of Americans, and lawmakers have been debating how to increase internet availability and performance.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday October 10, @06:16PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

[Ed note: In observance of the US federal holiday which is observed on Monday October 11, 2021, I am inviting the editorial staff to run stories on a weekend schedule tomorrow. Please join me in thanking them for all their hard work and for the sacrifice of their spare time and energy! --martyb.]

Biden becomes first president to issue proclamation marking Indigenous Peoples' Day:

President Joe Biden issued a proclamation commemorating Indigenous Peoples' Day on Friday, becoming the first US president to do so, the White House said.

"The contributions that Indigenous peoples have made throughout history — in public service, entrepreneurship, scholarship, the arts, and countless other fields — are integral to our Nation, our culture, and our society," Biden wrote in the proclamation Friday. "Today, we acknowledge the significant sacrifices made by Native peoples to this country — and recognize their many ongoing contributions to our Nation."

Biden also marked a change of course from previous administrations in his proclamation marking Columbus Day, which honors the explorer Christopher Columbus. In that proclamation, the President acknowledged the death and destruction wrought on native communities after Columbus journeyed to North America in the late 1500s, ushering in an age of European exploration of the Western Hemisphere.

"Today, we also acknowledge the painful history of wrongs and atrocities that many European explorers inflicted on Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities. It is a measure of our greatness as a Nation that we do not seek to bury these shameful episodes of our past — that we face them honestly, we bring them to the light, and we do all we can to address them," Biden wrote.

More than 100 cities -- including Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco -- and a number of states -- including Minnesota, Alaska, Vermont and Oregon -- have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day, choosing instead to recognize the native populations that were displaced and decimated after Columbus and other European explorers reached the continent. Berkeley, California, was the first city to adopt Indigenous Peoples' Day, in 1992.

Also at Al Jazeera.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday October 10, @01:22PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

High Power PCIe Gen5 power connector for next-gen GPUs pictured, up to 600W

Earlier this week [we published] an article about the upcoming flagship GeForce RTX 3090 Ti graphics card, which is now set to launch in January. The graphics card is supposedly the first card to feature a PCIe Gen5 power connector, a new standard that will ultimately solve one of the biggest drawbacks of the current 8-pin power connector, an insufficient power it can provide (up to 150W).

Igor Wallossek from Igor'sLAB managed to obtain the schematics and the information on the new connector, confirming that there is indeed a new standard coming, possibly to all new graphics cards in 2022.

Just as we said, the power connector has 16 lanes in total (12 power and 4 signal lanes), but it's not a MicroFit Molex standard, but something entirely new. The standard [as defined] has smaller spacing than existing connectors, a change from 4.2 mm to 3.0 mm. The connector has a width of 18.85 mm, so it is not exactly small, but much smaller than dual or triple 8-pin connector configuration. This will greatly simplify the circuit and PCB design process, not to mention all the space that will be saved.

The PCI-SIG specs define that each pin can sustain up to 9.2A, which means a total of 55.2 A at 12V. This gives a maximum power of 662W, but the specs officially go up to 600W, Igor notes. Along with twelve pins for power, there are [an] additional 4 signal lanes right underneath the connector. At this moment it is unclear what [their purpose is] or whether they are required or optional.

Also at Wccftech.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday October 10, @08:52AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Engineers 3D-Print Personalized, Wireless Wearables That Never Need a Charge:

University of Arizona engineers have developed a type of wearable they call a "biosymbiotic device," which has several unprecedented benefits. Not only are the devices custom 3D-printed and based on body scans of wearers, but they can operate continuously using a combination of wireless power transfer and compact energy storage. The team, led by Philipp Gutruf, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and Craig M. Berge Faculty Fellow in the College of Engineering, published its findings today in the journal Science Advances.

[...] Current wearable sensors face various limitations. Smartwatches, for example, need to be charged, and they can only gather limited amounts of data due to their placement on the wrist. By using 3D scans of a wearer's body, which can be gathered via methods including MRIs, CT scans and even carefully combined smartphone images, Gutruf and his team can 3D-print custom-fitted devices that wrap around various body parts. Think a virtually unnoticeable, lightweight, breathable, mesh cuff designed specifically for your bicep, calf or torso. The ability to specialize sensor placement allows researchers to measure physiological parameters they otherwise couldn't.

[...] Because these biosymbiotic devices are custom fitted to the wearer, they're also highly sensitive. Gutruf's team tested the device's ability to monitor parameters including temperature and strain while a person jumped, walked on a treadmill and used a rowing machine. In the rowing machine test, subjects wore multiple devices, tracking exercise intensity and the way muscles deformed with fine detail. The devices were accurate enough to detect body temperature changes induced by walking up a single flight of stairs.

Video on YouTube.

Journal Reference:
Tucker Stuart, Kevin Albert, Kasper Ifechukwude, et al. Biosymbiotic, personalized, and digitally manufactured wireless devices for indefinite collection of high-fidelity biosignals. Science Advances, 2021 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abj3269

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday October 10, @04:09AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the of-course-use-google-docs-only dept.

Google warns 14,000 Gmail users targeted by Russian hackers:

Google has warned about 14,000 of its users about being targeted in a state-sponsored phishing campaign from APT28, a threat group that has been linked to Russia.

The campaign was detected in late September and accounts for a larger than usual batch of Government-Backed Attack notifications that Google sends to targeted users every month.

[...] Shane Huntley, who is at the helm of Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) that responds to government-backed hacking, notes that the higher-than-usual number of alerts this month comes from “from a small number of widely targeted campaigns which were blocked.”

The campaign from APT28, also known as Fancy Bear, lead to a larger number of warnings for Gmail users across various industries.

In a statement sent by a Google spokesperson, Huntley says that Fancy Bear’s phishing campaign accounts for 86% of all the batch warnings delivered this month.

[...] “So why do we do these government warnings then? The warning really mostly tells people you are a potential target for the next attack so, now may be a good time to take some security actions” - Shane Huntley

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday October 09, @11:13PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Fossil fuel industry gets subsidies of $11m a minute, IMF finds:

Fossil fuelsFossil fuel industry gets subsidies of $11m a minute, IMF finds

The fossil fuel industry benefits from subsidies of $11m every minute, according to analysis by the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF found the production and burning of coal, oil and gas was subsidised by $5.9tn in 2020, with not a single country pricing all its fuels sufficiently to reflect their full supply and environmental costs. Experts said the subsidies were “adding fuel to the fire” of the climate crisis, at a time when rapid reductions in carbon emissions were urgently needed.

Explicit subsidies that cut fuel prices accounted for 8% of the total and tax breaks another 6%. The biggest factors were failing to make polluters pay for the deaths and poor health caused by air pollution (42%) and for the heatwaves and other impacts of global heating (29%).

Setting fossil fuel prices that reflect their true cost would cut global CO2 emissions by over a third, the IMF analysts said. This would be a big step towards meeting the internationally agreed 1.5C target. Keeping this target within reach is a key goal of the UN Cop26 climate summit in November.

Agreeing rules for carbon markets, which enable the proper pricing of pollution, is another Cop26 goal. “Fossil fuel price reform could not be timelier,” the IMF researchers said. The ending of fossil fuel subsidies would also prevent nearly a million deaths a year from dirty air and raise trillions of dollars for governments, they said.

“There would be enormous benefits from reform, so there’s an enormous amount at stake,” said Ian Parry, the lead author of the IMF report. “Some countries are reluctant to raise energy prices because they think it will harm the poor. But holding down fossil fuel prices is a highly inefficient way to help the poor, because most of the benefits accrue to wealthier households. It would be better to target resources towards helping poor and vulnerable people directly.”

[...] The G20 countries emit almost 80% of global greenhouse gases. More than 600 global companies in the We Mean Business coalition, including Unilever, Ikea, Aviva, Siemens and Volvo Cars, recently urged G20 leaders to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2025.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday October 09, @06:13PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the making-waves dept.

D-Wave plans to build a gate-model quantum computer

For more than 20 years, D-Wave has been synonymous with quantum annealing. Its early bet on this technology allowed it to become the world's first company to sell quantum computers, but that also somewhat limited the real-world problems its hardware could solve, given that quantum annealing works especially well for optimization problems like protein folding or route planning. But as the company announced at its Qubits conference today, a superconducting gate-model quantum computer — of the kind IBM and others currently offer — is now also on its roadmap.

D-Wave believes the combination of annealing, gate-model quantum computing and classic machines is what its businesses' users will need to get the most value from this technology. "Like we did when we initially chose to pursue annealing, we're looking ahead," the company notes in today's announcement. "We're anticipating what our customers need to drive practical business value, and we know error-corrected gate-model quantum systems with practical application value will be required for another important part of the quantum application market: simulating quantum systems. This is an application that's particularly useful in fields like materials science and pharmaceutical research."

Previously: A Quantum Computer Just Solved a Problem Three Million Times Faster than a Classical Computer

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday October 09, @01:31PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the The-Adolescence-of-P-1 dept.

Researchers create 'self-aware' algorithm to ward off hacking attempts:

It sounds like a scene from a spy thriller. An attacker gets through the IT defenses of a nuclear power plant and feeds it fake, realistic data, tricking its computer systems and personnel into thinking operations are normal. The attacker then disrupts the function of key plant machinery, causing it to misperform or break down. By the time system operators realize they've been duped, it's too late, with catastrophic results.

The scenario isn't fictional; it happened in 2010, when the Stuxnet virus was used to damage nuclear centrifuges in Iran. And as ransomware and other cyberattacks around the world increase, system operators worry more about these sophisticated "false data injection" strikes. In the wrong hands, the computer models and data analytics – based on artificial intelligence – that ensure smooth operation of today's electric grids, manufacturing facilities, and power plants could be turned against themselves.

Purdue University's Hany Abdel-Khalik has come up with a powerful response: to make the computer models that run these cyberphysical systems both self-aware and self-healing. Using the background noise within these systems' data streams, Abdel-Khalik and his students embed invisible, ever-changing, one-time-use signals that turn passive components into active watchers. Even if an attacker is armed with a perfect duplicate of a system's model, any attempt to introduce falsified data will be immediately detected and rejected by the system itself, requiring no human response.

[Source]: Purdue University

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday October 09, @08:43AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the it's-all-directed-into-your-head dept.

Biden signs bill to help victims of 'Havana syndrome'

President Biden on Friday signed into law a bill that provides financial support to U.S. government officials who have fallen victim to "Havana syndrome," mysterious health symptoms that have affected U.S. personnel in various parts of the world.

"We are bringing to bear the full resources of the U.S. Government to make available first-class medical care to those affected and to get to the bottom of these incidents, including to determine the cause and who is responsible," Biden said in a written statement Friday. "Protecting Americans and all those who serve our country is our first duty, and we will do everything we can to care for our personnel and their families."

Havana Syndrome: 'Attacks have stepped-up in their brazenness,' says national security expert

Frank Figliuzzi, a former assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI, called for greater coordination within the U.S. government to combat the growing number of mysterious soundwave attacks against Americans dubbed as "Havana Syndrome."

"I still don't see the kind of coordinated, across agency, government-wide approach to this where there's a central medical review that's done, no matter which agency you're from, if you've been impacted, and look, these attacks have stepped-up in their brazenness," Figliuzzi said.

Figliuzzi, an NBC News national security analyst, gave examples of the increasingly flagrant attacks against high-ranking U.S. officials. One attack occurred during a trip to India in September with CIA Director William Burns. Another potential attack delayed Vice President Kamala Harris' trip to Vietnam in August.

U.S. investigators increasingly confident directed-energy attacks behind Havana Syndrome

The U.S. government's investigation into the mysterious illnesses impacting American personnel overseas and at home is turning up new evidence that the symptoms are the result of directed-energy attacks, according to five lawmakers and officials briefed on the matter.

Berlin police investigating 'Havana syndrome' cases at U.S. Embassy

In response to a report by the news magazine Der Spiegel, Berlin police said they had since August been investigating an "alleged sonic weapon attack on employees of the U.S. Embassy," but declined to provide further information.

Havana syndrome.

Also at NYT.

Previously: CIA Director "Fuming" After Havana Syndrome Strikes Team Member in India

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday October 09, @04:03AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the bleeding-edge dept.

AMD: Windows 11 May Cause Performance Dips of Up to 15% on Ryzen CPUs

AMD: Windows 11 May Cause Performance Dips Of Up To 15% On Ryzen CPUs:

Wccftech reported a few days ago about known issues appearing after users have installed Microsoft's newest Windows 11 operating system—Oracle VirtualBox software and Cốc Cốc browser compatibility issues, as well as Intel networking issues. Today, AMD reported issues that their Windows 11 compatible AMD processors were having with performance while running certain applications after the new OS installation.

AMD urges users to stick with Windows 10 as a workaround, hotfix coming

[...] Known changes to performance affected areas such as

  • Measured and functional L3 cache latency may increase by ~3X.
  • UEFI CPPC2 ("preferred core") may not preferentially schedule threads on a processor's fastest core.

[...] To fix these issues, AMD and Microsoft have rolled out both updates to Windows 11, as well as software updates from AMD that will roll out over this month. Microsoft and AMD plan to update their separate knowledge bases with articles updating users with included version numbers and other information as they become available. AMD does state, that while these problems are happening, to continue to use a current supported version of Windows 10 instead of continuing utilizing Windows 11 until the problems have been actively concluded.

More details at AMD's Knowledge Base.

Intel Core i7-12700K 12 Core Alder Lake CPU-z Benchmark Leaks Out, Up to 45% Faster Than AMD Ryzen 7

Intel Core i7-12700K 12 Core Alder Lake CPU-z Benchmark Leaks Out, Up To 45% Faster Than AMD Ryzen 7 5800X & Core i9-11900K:

Intel's Core i7-12700K Alder Lake CPU has been tested in the CPU-z benchmark and allegedly is up to 45% faster than the fastest 8 core CPUs based on Intel's Rocket Lake and AMD's Zen 3 processor lineups.

Intel Core i7-12700K Alder Lake 12 Core Up To 45% Faster Than Core i9-11900K & Ryzen 7 5800X In CPU-z Multi-Threaded Benchmark

The alleged CPU-z benchmark result has been tweeted by TUM_APISAK and shows the Intel Core i7-12700K scoring 800.2 points in the single-core and 9423.2 points in the multi-core benchmark tests. The Core i7-12700K is a 12 core chip but it should be positioned in the same price category as AMD Ryzen 7 5800X and Intel Core i7-11700K. Based on that, the performance improvement is huge for both single-core and multi-core tests.

In the single-core test, the Intel Core i7-12700K is around 17.3% faster than the Core i9-11900K, 24% faster than the Core i7-11700K, and 25% faster than the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X. In Multi-core tests, the Intel Core i7-12700K pushes on top with a 45% lead over the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X and Intel Core i9-11900K. Compared to its predecessor, the multi-core performance is improved by 50%. The CPU only loses to the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X which is a 12 core and 24 thread part and is around 2% faster than the Core i7-12700K.

Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

posted by chromas on Friday October 08, @09:12PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the birds'-eye-and-other-puns dept.

Feather phenomenon: Radar indicates stronger hurricanes trap, transport more birds: Higher winds, more T-storms keep birds confined to calm-eyed center of cyclones:

Reports of birds being trapped in the center of hurricanes date back to at least the 19th century, when crews observed the phenomenon from the bows of ships and saw their vessels become mobile ports for exhausted birds.

"It's been really fun reading some of these older observations from the 1800s about taking a ship through a hurricane eye and watching birds landing on it," said Van Den Broeke, associate professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences. "So we've known for a long time that this happens.

"But it's really only since (the advent of) radar observations that we have gotten any sense of how many of these systems actually do transport birds and insects."

The technology that allowed meteorologists to really begin differentiating weather from organisms -- dual-polarimetric radar, which added a second, vertical dimension to previously one-dimensional observations -- became widely available only in the past 10 years. Which means that much still remains unclear about when, how often and under what conditions a hurricane turns a free bird into a whirlybird.

[...] Though the intensity of a hurricane may hold the greatest sway, Van Den Broeke came across evidence that timing and geography matter, too. The largest bioscatter signatures appeared in hurricanes that occurred between July and October, when many bird species are migrating southward to the tropics, suggesting that native seabirds are not alone in getting swept up. Bioscatter was also larger and denser, on average, in hurricanes that struck the Gulf Coast and Florida, which boast a larger concentration and diversity of birds than other areas struck by the recorded hurricanes.

[...] He's now analyzing inversion data collected by parachuted instruments, called dropsondes, that are released within hurricanes from aircraft flown by the U.S. Air Force and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"I'm comparing the observations of inversion height to the bioscatter signatures," said Van Den Broeke, whose work is supported by the National Science Foundation. "Does it match up? Do birds fly above that? Below it? And can we say something, then, about intensity changes in tropical cyclones, and relate that to how the bioscatter signature behaved?

"It's possible there's some kind of systematic effect there."

If so, bioscatter altitude might eventually become a radar-based proxy for hurricane traits that can currently be measured only via dropsonde.

Journal Reference:
Matthew S. Van Den Broeke. ZSL Publications [open], Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation (DOI: 10.1002/rse2.225)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday October 08, @06:23PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the how-well-do-they-sleep? dept.

A 'cousin' of Viagra reduces obesity by stimulating cells to burn fat:

These findings, published online Oct. 7 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, reveal that a chemical inhibitor of the enzyme PDE9 stimulates cells to burn more fat. This occurred in male mice and in female mice whose sex hormones were reduced by removing their ovaries, thus mimicking menopause. Postmenopausal women are well known to be at increased risk for obesity around their waist as well as at risk for cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

Inhibiting PDE9 did not cause these changes in female mice that had their ovaries, so female sex hormone status was important in the study.

“Currently, there isn’t a pill that has been proven effective for treating severe obesity, yet such obesity is a global health problem that increases the risk of many other diseases,” says senior investigator David Kass, M.D., Abraham and Virginia Weiss Professor of Cardiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “What makes our findings exciting is that we found an oral medication that activates fat-burning in mice to reduce obesity and fat buildup in organs like the liver and heart that contribute to disease; this is new.”

This study follows work reported by the same laboratory in 2015 that first showed the PDE9 enzyme is present in the heart and contributes to heart disease triggered by high blood pressure. Blocking PDE9 increases the amount of a small molecule known as cyclic GMP, which in turn controls many aspects of cell function throughout the body. PDE9 is the enzyme cousin of another protein called PDE5, which also controls cyclic GMP and is blocked by drugs such as Viagra. Inhibitors of PDE9 are experimental, so there is no drug name yet.

Based on these results, the investigators suspected PDE9 inhibition might improve cardiometabolic syndrome (CMS), a constellation of common conditions including high blood pressure; high blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides; and excess body fat, particularly around the waist. CMS is considered a pandemic by medical experts and a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancers and COVID-19.

Journal Reference:
Sumita Mishra, Nandhini Sadagopan, Brittany Dunkerly-Eyring, et al. Inhibition of phosphodiesterase type 9 reduces obesity and cardiometabolic syndrome in mice [open], The Journal of Clinical Investigation (DOI: 10.1172/JCI148798)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday October 08, @12:43PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the trying-to-get-a-leg-up dept.

Nvidia Offers Concessions in EU as Arm Deal Probe Extended

The European Commission (EC) this week extended its probe of Nvidia's proposed acquisition of Arm until at least October 27 and said that Nvidia offered the EU certain concessions to[sic] in a bid to persuade the bloc's antimonopoly regulators to approve the deal. Experts say that the EU regulatory review will take considerably longer.

In a bid to make regulators approve the deal to acquire Arm, Nvidia is eager to offer various incentives to respective countries or blocs. In the U.K., the company proposed to invest 'at least' $100 million in the country's most powerful supercomputer. The EC said that it had received concessions proposal from Nvidia as well, but did not elaborate, reports Bloomberg.

Now that the probe is formally extended to October 27, the EU competition authority will request opinion from competitors and clients before determining whether to accept Nvidia's concessions, demand more or initiate a four-month long investigation, reports Reuters. Bloomberg believes that the probe will be extended further, which will give the EC some additional time to seek feedback from interested parties and figure out what it might get from Nvidia.

Also at Notebookcheck.

Previously: Nvidia-Branded ARM CPUs; UK Trade Union Speaks Out Against Deal
Nvidia's $40 Billion ARM Acquisition: "All but Dead"?

Related: Arm Officially Supports Panfrost Open-Source Mali GPU Driver Development

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday October 08, @09:58AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Samsung Still on Track for 3nm Chip Production, but Mass Production Will Start in H1 2022:

A while back, Samsung announced that it would be mass producing 3GAE (3nm Gate-All-Around Early) and 3GAP (3nm Gate-All-Around Plus) nodes, resulting in incredible performance and power-efficiency gains. Unfortunately, not everything groundbreaking will have a positive start, and while the Korean giant aims to commence its mass production plans, those will happen in the first half of 2022.

[...] Instead of pushing forward just to get ahead or match TSMC’s progress, we believe that Samsung has made the right call in delaying its 3nm technology. This will allow the Korean manufacturer to establish a firm base, get over the experimental process earlier, and churn out a higher number of wafers at a faster pace to various clients. Though Samsung claims that its 3nm technology will offer a 35 percent performance jump and 50 percent power savings compared to its 7nm LPP nodes, it is not confirmed how it will fare against TSMC’s own 3nm offerings.

[...] However, Samsung continues to exude that ‘never give up’ attitude as we previously reported that the Korean giant is about to finalize its $17 billion chip plant in Texas. Perhaps that location might also serve various clientele for 3nm orders. It looks like we will find out next year.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday October 08, @07:03AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the stiff-and-tough dept.

Elastic polymer that is both stiff and tough, resolves long-standing quandary:

"In addition to developing polymers for emerging applications, scientists are facing an urgent challenge: Plastic pollution," said Zhigang Suo, the Allen E. and Marilyn M. Puckett Professor of Mechanics and Materials, the senior author of the study. "The development of biodegradable polymers has once again brought us back to fundamental questions—why are some polymers tough, but others brittle? How do we make polymers resist tearing under repeated stretching?"

Polymer chains are made by linking together monomer building blocks. To make a material elastic, the polymer chains are crosslinked by covalent bonds. The more crosslinks, the shorter the polymer chains and the stiffer the material.

"As your polymer chains become shorter, the energy you can store in the material becomes less and the material becomes brittle," said Junsoo Kim, a graduate student at SEAS and co-first author of the paper. "If you have only a few crosslinks, the chains are longer, and the material is tough but it's too squishy to be useful."

To develop a polymer that is both stiff and tough, the researchers looked to physical, rather than chemical bonds to link the polymer chains. These physical bonds, called entanglements, have been known in the field for almost as long as polymer science has existed, but they've been thought to only impact stiffness, not toughness.

But the SEAS research team found that with enough entanglements, a polymer could become tough without compromising stiffness. To create highly entangled polymers, the researchers used a concentrated monomer precursor solution with 10 times less water than other polymer recipes.

"By crowding all the monomers into this solution with less water and then polymerizing it, we forced them to be entangled, like tangled strings of yarn," said Guogao Zhang, a postdoctoral fellow at SEAS and co-first author the paper. "Just like with knitted fabrics, the polymers maintain their connection with one another by being physically intertwined."

With hundreds of these entanglements, just a handful of chemical crosslinks are required to keep the polymer stable.

"As elastomers, these polymers have high toughness, strength, and fatigue resistance," said Meixuanzi Shi, a visiting scholar at SEAS and co-author of the paper. "When the polymers are submerged in water to become hydrogels, they have low friction, and high wear resistance."

Journal Reference:
Junsoo Ki, Guogao Zhang, Meixuanzi Shi, Zhigang Suo. Fracture, fatigue, and friction of polymers in which entanglements greatly outnumber crosslinks Science (2021). DOI: 10.1126/science.abg6320)

Original Submission