Researchers develop fiber consisting of gallium metal core, according to a report published on February 22, 2019.
This tough fiber was developed by researchers from North Carolina State University. This fiber combines the elasticity of rubber with the strength of a metal, which results in a tougher material. It can be utilized in soft robotics, packaging materials or next-generation textiles.
The fiber consists of a gallium metal core surrounded by an elastic polymer sheath. When the fiber is subjected to stress, it has strength of the metal core and when the metal breaks, the fiber does not fail. The strain between the breaks in the metal is absorbed by the polymer sheath and transfers the stress back to the metal core. On breaking of the metal core, energy is dissipated, thereby allowing the fiber to continue to absorb energy as it elongates. In materials, toughness is a material's ability to absorb energy and deform without breaking. The new fiber is far tougher than either the metal wire or the polymer sheath on its own.
Furthermore, the gallium core is conductive in nature though it loses its conductivity on breaking of the internal core. By melting the metal cores, fibers can be reused. Michael Dickey, corresponding author of a paper on the work said, “We used gallium for this proof of concept work, but the fibers could be tuned to alter their mechanical properties, or to retain functionality at higher temperatures, by using different materials in the core and shell.”
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