Hyperelastic gel: a highly stretchable material in the realm of science

Scientists have developed a new type of hydrogel that is both stretchy and maintains its original shape. This breakthrough could have numerous applications in fields such as robotics and medicine.

Lili Chen and her team at Tsinghua University in Beijing created the hydrogel by inserting pearl-necklace chains into the structure, made of coiled polymer beads connected by a chain of carbon atoms. These chains can unfurl under strain and rewind when the strain is released, allowing the hydrogel to stretch to nearly 5 meters before returning to its original length. A 2-centimeter-wide disc of the hydrogel could increase 100 times in area before returning to its original size.

The researchers also created inflatable robotic grippers from the hydrogel, designed to handle delicate objects like strawberries. These grippers were extremely damage resistant, able to withstand being stood on or pierced with a needle. Zehuan Huang at Peking University praised the work, stating that this hydrogel represents a major breakthrough in high-performance polymeric materials and will inspire interest in using hyper-elastic gels in soft robotics.

By Sophia Gonzalez

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