21 innovations

Hydrogels made in the form of the letters D, N and A collapse into a liquid-like state on their own but return to the original shape when surrounded by water

Solid when wet and liquid when dry, this new hydrogel seems confused

Cornell University discovered a new variety of hydrogel – like Jello, except made with DNA instead of gelatin. When full of water, it is a soft, elastic solid. But when the water is removed, the hydrogel collapses, losing its shape. The resulting material pours like a liquid, and conforms to the shape of its container. The most interesting part, however, is that the liquid hydrogel remembers its shape. Add water and you get back the original Jello-like shape.

DNA has a wide range of potential applications based solely on its properties as an unusual polymer. These include controlled delivery of pharmaceuticals, 3D tissue scaffolding and engineering, and a range of other biomedical applications. Among these DNA-based materials are self-assembling hydrogels, in which standard cross-linked DNA polymers form large, loose polymer networks that can adsorb huge amounts of water. As they do so, their mechanical properties change dramatically.

Source: gizmag.comAdded: 17 December 2012