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The Magical Conversion of Hydrogel to Rigid Plastic
A new bio-inspired hydrogel material is discovered that stiffens 1800 folds on exposure with the heat. The newly developed technology can provide protection to the motorcyclists and race car drivers in case of accidents
Fremont, CA: The conventional polymer material tends to become soft and sometimes even melts when it comes in contact with the heat. The scientists of Hokkaido University developed a hydrogel solution; this material hardens when heated and softens when the metal cools. The hydrogel material was developed with the concept of "Stability of protein inside the body of an organism." The protein inside the body of an organism is capable of surviving in an extremely hot environment, like deep-sea thermal vents or hot spring.
Primarily, the scientists developed a gel-based polyelectrolyte polyacrylic acid (PAAc), immersed it in a calcium acetate aqueous solution. PAAc acts like a natural polymer and becomes soft when heated. On the addition of calcium acetate, the side residue of PAAc interacts with the calcium acetate molecules, in a way that is similar to what happens to a thermophilic protein, causing
the PAAcs to act differently.
The scientists found that the gel gets separated into a polymer dense "phase" and a sparse polymer with a rise in the temperature. When the temperature is around 60 degrees Celsius, the dense phase of the polymer undergoes massive dehydration, which strengthens ionic bonds along with the hydrophobic interaction among the polymer molecules. This reaction causes the material to transform rapidly from a soft and transparent hydrogel to rigid and opaque plastic material.
The newly developed material was 1800 times stiffer, 20 times more stringent, and 80 times stronger than the original hydrogel. The switch from soft to rigid was fully reversible by cooling the material down.
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