Now, tougher aircraft frames, biomediccal implants
Harnessing 'molecular levers' could help engineers make more efficient and durable material from airplane frames to biomedical implants, according to an American study.
Duke University researchers discovered that they could accelerate chemical and mechanical reactivity among atoms a 1,000-fold, forcing a molecular tug-of-war (working like molecular levers) to create superior materials.
"We are interested in designing new, stress-responsive materials, so we are trying to develop reactions that are very slow normally but that can be accelerated efficiently by force," said Steve Craig, professor of chemistry at Duke, who headed the research, the journal Nature Chemistry reports.
Scientists are interested in this type of molecular tug-of-war because many materials break down after repeated cycles of tugging, stress and other forces, according to a Duke statement.
"If we can channel usually destructive forces into constructive pathways, we could trigger reactions that make the material stronger when and where it is most useful," Craig said.
In the experiment, Craig and his team used the equivalent of microscopic tweezers to grab onto two parts of atomic chains and pulled them so that they would break open or react in certain spots.