Could a mixture of water and clay replace plastics? The desire to wean the world off oil has sparked all manner of research into novel transportation fuels, but manufacturing plastics uses large amounts of oil too. Researchers at the University of Tokyo, Japan, think their material could be up to the task.
Takuzo Aida and his team mixed a few grams of clay with 100 grams of water in the presence of tiny quantities of a thickening agent called sodium polyacrylate and an organic “molecular glue”. The thickening agent teases apart the clay into thin sheets, increasing its surface area and allowing the glue to get a better hold on it.
This means that, while the mixture is almost 98 per cent water, it forms a transparent and elastic hydrogel with sufficient mechanical strength to make a 3.5-centimetre-wide self-standing bridge.
Link and words from newscientist.com, photo by Takuzo Aida and Nature.