Imagine a future where humans wear clothes with soft, mesh-like material that’s robust enough to resist bullets. That will soon become a reality, thanks to a group of scientists at Hokkaido University in Japan. This new gel like material is as durable as metal, has the flexibility of jello, and could revolutionize how our bodies heal and age.
The tough, flexible fabric combines hydrogels, a gelatinous substance made mostly of water — like those found in contact lenses or jello — with glass fibers. This specific combination maximizes its resilience, making the material 100 times tougher than hydrogels and 25 times tougher than glass fiber fabric, based on the amount of energy required to destroy it.
According to the team of Hokkaido University scientists who have spent the past three years working on the material, it is the strongest soft material ever obtained by human beings.
Professor Jian Ping Gong, who leads the team believes the fiber-reinforced hydrogel can be used to produce biomaterials, like artificial organs and prostheses, ready to endure everyday wear-and-tear and can be used as a biological substitute like artificial cartilage, or artificial ligament, or varied forms of artificial organs. Other uses might include sports clothing, helmets or bulletproof vests.
While Gong’s team is still perfecting the technology, they’re already working on collaborations with firms in the field of artificial cartilage.