Rice University researchers say discovery may point toward self-healing materials
Squeeze a piece of silicone and it quickly returns to its original shape, as squishy as ever. But scientists at Rice University have discovered that the liquid crystal phase of silicone becomes 90 percent stiffer when silicone is gently and repeatedly compressed. Their research could lead to new strategies for self-healing materials or biocompatible materials that mimic human tissues.
A paper on the research appeared this month in Nature’s online journal Nature Communications.
Silicone in its liquid crystal phase is somewhere between a solid and liquid state, which makes it very handy for many things. So Rice polymer scientist Rafael Verduzco was intrigued to see a material he thought he knew well perform in a way he didn’t expect. “I was really surprised to find out, when my student did these measurements, that it became stiffer,” he said. “In fact, I didn’t believe him at first.”