Polymer

  • ​While many of us might think that concrete structures such as bridges simply stand unaided for decades at a time, the fact is that they require maintenance as often as once every five years. An experimental new type of rebar, however, could drastically change that.
  • ​While shape-memory materials do have some interesting applications, many of them require the application of heat in order to change shape – and that could cause problems, in environments such as the human body. A new material, however, relies instead on a magnetically-responsive liquid.
  • Researchers at Cambridge University have managed to create the smallest pixels in the world, about a million times tinier than those in a phone. These new pixels could be used in huge, flexible displays that are relatively easy to manufacture and cheaper to run.
  • ​It's always helpful if materials let you know when they're under stress, so that changes can be made before catastrophic failures occur. A new polymer is designed to provide such a warning, as it glows when stretched.
  • Utilizing tape to repair concrete structures may seem like some hillbilly fix-it joke, but in fact that's just what fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) sheets are used for. Now, scientists have developed a better FRP, that halves the number of people and amount of time required for application.
  • ​Metal fibers are strong, but can't be stretched very far. Rubber fibers are stretchy, but they're not very strong. Well, scientists have combined the selling points of both materials into one type of hybrid fiber. It could be used in applications such as soft robotics.
  • ​Although concrete doesn't burn, it can "spall" when subjected to extreme heat – this means that surface layers of the material break off, potentially causing structures made of it to collapse. According to a new study, however, fibers obtained from discarded tires can help keep that from happening.
  • Scientists have found a way to create materials that actually get stronger the more you use them. By mimicking the mechanism that allows living muscles to grow and strengthen after exercise, the polymer breaks down under mechanical stress, then regrows itself into a stronger configuration.
  • ​Most 3D printers work by either depositing or melting building material in successive layers. Unfortunately, this results in the finished objects looking kind of chunky, as the ridges between layers are visible. A new process, however, uses light to create smooth-edged items out of resin.
  • Science
    In many parts of the world, particularly developing nations, people paint buildings' roofs white in order to reflect sunlight and thus keep those buildings cooler. A new paint-like polymer could make that approach more effective than ever.
  • Engineers at Caltech and ETH Zurich have created a swimming robot that’s powered by material deformation. That means that it’s made using materials that change shape in response to temperature swings, and that deformation pushes the device through water.
  • ​As useful as it is, plastic isn’t the most environmentally-friendly material. To try to wean us off it, chemists at Colorado State University have now developed a polymer that apparently has all the benefits, but can be easily broken down and recycled over and over.