Researchers develop glass that stretches

New glassy gels. Newsreel
A new class of materials called glassy gels have been developed. | Photo: Meixiang Wang (North Carolina State University)

A new type of glass that stretches without breaking has been developed in the United States.

Researchers have called the new class of materials “glassy gels”.

North Carolina State University Professor Michael Dickey said the material was very hard and difficult to break despite containing more than 50 percent liquid.

Professor Dickey said glassy gels were simple to produce and held promise for a variety of applications.

“Gels and glassy polymers are classes of materials that have historically been viewed as distinct from one another,” he said.

“Glassy polymers are hard, stiff and often brittle. They’re used to make things like water bottles or airplane windows. Gels – such as contact lenses – contain liquid and are soft and stretchy.

“We’ve created a class of materials that we’ve termed glassy gels, which are as hard as glassy polymers, but – if you apply enough force – can stretch up to five times their original length, rather than breaking.”

He said once the material had been stretched you could return it to its original shape by applying heat.

“In addition, the surface of the glassy gels is highly adhesive, which is unusual for hard materials.”

Co-author of the research paper, postdoctoral researcher Meixiang Wang, said because glassy gels were more than 50 percent liquid they were also more efficient conductors of electricity than common plastics that have comparable physical characteristics.

“Considering the number of unique properties they possess, we’re optimistic that these materials will be useful,” Mr Wang said.

Read the full paper.