125 innovations

Tough, super-stretchy hydrogel

Scientists at Harvard University have created a hydrogel that’s tough, biocompatible, self-healing, and can be repeatedly stretched to 21 times its regular length without breaking. Being a hydrogel, it’s composed mostly of water, although it also contains calcium ions, and a mix of two common polymers. While each of those polymers are fairly weak on their own, the results are truly impressive when they’re combined.

In fact, the new hydrogel's creator, a materials engineer named Zhigang Suo, claims the material can't be torn apart using just your hands. In reality tearing does occur at the molecular level, but the material's unique structure manages to keep it intact, facilitating slick demonstrations like the one in the image. There are more practical applications for the material, however, like making virtually indestructible contact lenses, extra durable replacement cartilage for human joints, or even a strong support system for growing artificial organs.

Source: gizmag.comAdded: 10 September 2012