Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – New Material Thickens As It Stretches

A new synthetic material developed by scientists at the University of Leeds, in England, is the first material of its kind to thicken as it is stretched. The non-porous material exhibits "auxetic" stretching properties in that the material becomes thicker on a molecular level when it is stretched. Other auxetic materials in nature include cat skin, and the protective layer in human muscle tendons. The findings of their research were recently published in Nature Communications.


new auxetic material thickens as it stretches
Liquid crystal elastomer with auxetic capabilities, showing its flexibility and high optical quality. Credit: Devesh Mistry, University of Leeds

“This is a really exciting discovery, which will have significant benefits in the future for the development of products with a wide range of applications," stated Dr. Devesh Ministry, project research lead at the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds. This new synthetic material is inherently auxetic on the molecular level and is therefore much simpler to fabricate and avoids the problems usually found with engineered products. But more research is needed to understand exactly how they can be used."


From the University of Leeds article: "The team discovered the yet-to-be-named material while examining the capabilities of Liquid Crystal Elastomers. Liquid crystals are best known for their use in mobile phone and television screens and have both liquid and solid properties. When they are linked with polymer chains to form rubbery networks, they have completely new properties and possible applications. 'Our results demonstrate a new use for liquid crystals beyond the flat screen monitors and televisions many of us are familiar with,' said Professor Helen Gleeson, study co-author and Head of Physics and Astronomy at Leeds. 'This new synthetic material is a great example of what physics research and exploring the potential of materials such as liquid crystals can discover. Collaboration between scientists with several areas of expertise and the extensive technical facilities we have at Leeds make this kind of exploration and discovery possible.'”


Read more about the new material that thickens as it stretches at University of Leeds.