Sea cucumber-inspired fibre switches from rigid to flexible

June 21st, 2008 - 3:31 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 21 (ANI): Case Western University researchers say that they have invented a biopolymer that can be transformed from rigid to flexible, and vice versa.

The researchers say that their new material mimics the structure of sea cucumber, which can change their skin from soft and flexible to hard and rigid.

Sea cucumbers are known to have skin composed of very fine cellulose fibres. When they are attacked, surrounding cells secrete molecules that cause such “whiskers” to bind together, and form a kind of protective armour.

However, when they are relaxed, other cells release plasticizing proteins to loosen the fibres, and thereby allow the creatures to flow easily through crevices.

For creating the new material, the researchers isolated the cellulose fibres from the surface of creatures that were very similar to sea cucumbers.

Combining the fibres with a rubbery polymer mixture, the researchers formed a kind of mesh through the body of the material, reinforcing the softer polymer.

The researchers say that the fibres hold it together, creating an inflexible material.

“It’s like a three-dimensional web in which these nanofibers overlap at certain points, and wherever they overlap, they stick to each other,” Live Science quoted them as saying.

According to them, such a material may be used in biomedical applications, such as implantable electrodes that can record brain activity over long periods of time, without the scarring produced by conventional metal electrodes. (ANI)

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