Viscoelastic super-rubber. Photo: Science/AAAS, Courtesy: Popular Science
Viscoelastic materials perform important functions in architecture and product design, particularly when flexibility and malleability is desired, as in building expansion joints. They also play an important role in surfaces that come into contact with the body, such as foam cushions or mattresses. But their primary drawback is their limited temperature range; they break down when too hot and become rigid when too cold.
A team of Japanese scientists has recently developed a new super-rubber that can withstand a broad range of temperatures and still exhibit peak performance. The material is composed of a spaghetti-like mesh of carbon nanotubes in single-, double-, and triple-wall manifestations. The random, tangled network of nanotubes behaves like a compound spring, causing the material to be incredibly elastic.
In a recently published article in Science, the viscoelastic super-rubber is said to withstand temperatures from –320 F to 1,832 F, a surprisingly wide range. According to Drexel University nanotechnologist Yury Gogotsi, "This exceptional range could be used to build anything from spacecraft to sneaker shock absorbers." Future building components could also benefit from the greatly increased durability.