Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors



Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Researchers engineer new polymers to change their stiffness and strength when exposed to liquids

 Sea cucumbers inspired the design of chemo-responsive nanocomposite with adaptive mechanical properties.

Credit: F. Carpenter
Sea cucumbers inspired the design of chemo-responsive nanocomposite with adaptive mechanical properties.
Credit: F. Carpenter

Abstract:
Case Western Reserve University, VA researchers publish findings in Science

Researchers engineer new polymers to change their stiffness and strength when exposed to liquids

CLEVELAND, OH | Posted on March 6th, 2008

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the departments of macromolecular science and engineering and biomedical engineering at the Case School of Engineering and the Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center has published ground-breaking work on a new type of polymer that displays chemoresponsive mechanic adaptability -- meaning the polymer can change from hard to soft plastic and vice versa in seconds when exposed to liquid -- in the March 7, 2008, issue of Science, one of the world's most prestigious scholarly journals covering all aspects of science.

Jeffrey R. Capadona, associate investigator at the VA's Advanced Platform Technology (APT) Center, graduate student Kadhiravan Shanmuganathan, and Case Western Reserve University professors and APT investigators Dustin Tyler (biomedical engineering), Stuart Rowan (macromolecular science) and Christoph Weder (macromolecular science) have unveiled a radically new approach for developing polymer nanocomposites which alter their mechanical properties when exposed to certain chemical stimuli.

"We can engineer these new polymers to change their mechanical properties -- in particular stiffness and strength -- in a programmed fashion when exposed to a specific chemical," says Weder, one of the senior authors of the paper.

"The materials on which we reported in Science were designed to change from a hard plastic -- think of a CD case -- to a soft rubber when brought in contact with water," adds Rowan, who has been Weder's partner on the project for almost six years.

"Our new materials were tailored to respond specifically to water and to exhibit minimal swelling, so they don't soak up water like a sponge," saud Shanmuganathan.

In their new approach, the team used a biomimetic approach -- or mimicking biology -- copying nature's design found in the skin of sea cucumbers.

"These creatures can reversibly and quickly change the stiffness of their skin. Normally it is very soft, but, for example, in response to a threat, the animal can activate its 'body armor' by hardening its skin," explains Capadona, who has a sea cucumber in his aquarium. Marine biologists have shown in earlier studies that the switching effect in the biological tissue is derived from a distinct nanocomposite structure in which highly rigid collagen nanofibers are embedded in a soft connective tissue. The stiffness is mediated by specific chemicals that are secreted by the animal's nervous system and which control the interactions among the collagen nanofibers. When connected, the nanofibers form a reinforcing network which increases the overall stiffness of the material considerably, when compared to the disconnected (soft) state.

Building on their recent success on the fabrication of artificial polymer nanocomposites containing rigid cellulose nanofibers, which earned them the December 2007 cover of Nature Nanotechnology, the team mimicked the architecture nature 'designed' for the sea cucumbers and created artificial materials that display similar mechanical morphing characteristics.

The Case Western Reserve/VA team is specifically interested in using such dynamic mechanical materials in biomedical applications, for example as adaptive substrates for intracortical microelectrodes. These devices are being developed as part of 'artificial nervous systems' that have the potential to help treat patients that suffer from medical conditions such as Parkinson's disease, stroke or spinal cord injuries, i.e., disorders in which the body's interface to the brain is compromised. A problem observed in experimental studies is that the quality of the brain signals recorded by such microelectrodes usually degrades within a few months after implantation, making chronic applications challenging. One hypothesis for this failure is that the high stiffness of these electrodes, which is required for their insertion, causes damage to the surrounding, very soft brain tissue over time. "We believe that electrodes that use mechanically adaptive polymer as substrate could alleviate this problem" explains Dustin Tyler, who specializes in neural interfacing and functional electrical stimulation. The development and testing of experimental microelectrodes that involve the new adaptive materials is currently underway. "That's why we designed our first materials to respond to water" explains Weder. "This allows the rigid electrodes to become soft when implanted into the water-rich brain" he adds.

The Department of Veterans Affairs and the VA Rehabilitation R&D Center of Excellence in Advanced Platform Technology (APT) played an important role in uniting Weder and Rowan with Capadona and Tyler, to conduct research in the area of adaptive nanocomposite materials, which are now fabricated by the new process. The APT center is a cohesive intellectual community that offers its investigators the opportunity to meet regularly, have discussions within and outside of their fields, participate in list-servs, and attend educational and scientific conferences. It allows access to state-of-the-art facilities including MEMS design and fabrication, mixed signal and wireless communication laboratories, telemetry laboratories, support staff and other technical and clinical resources.

Science is the world's leading multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal that publishes significant original scientific research, plus reviews and analyses of current research and science policy.

####

About Case Western Reserve University
Case is among the nation's leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work.

About research at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center

The Cleveland VA Medical Center has several large, well-funded research and development programs in:

* biomedical research

* health services research

* clinical and cooperative studies

* rehabilitation research

There are also two VA-funded centers of excellence:

* Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) Center

* Advance Platform Technology Center

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Laura M. Massie

216-368-4442

Copyright © Case Western Reserve University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

'Stealth' nanoparticles could improve cancer vaccines October 1st, 2014

Stressed Out: Research Sheds New Light on Why Rechargeable Batteries Fail October 1st, 2014

New Absorber Will Lead to Better Biosensor: Biosensors are more sensitive and able to detect smaller changes in the environment October 1st, 2014

Graphene chips are close to significant commercialization October 1st, 2014

Nanomedicine

Arrowhead Expands Management Team with Appointment of Susan Boynton as Vice President Global Regulatory Affairs October 1st, 2014

Nanobotmodels present metastasis and angiogenesis medical animation October 1st, 2014

'Stealth' nanoparticles could improve cancer vaccines October 1st, 2014

New Absorber Will Lead to Better Biosensor: Biosensors are more sensitive and able to detect smaller changes in the environment October 1st, 2014

Discoveries

Novel approach to magnetic measurements atom-by-atom October 1st, 2014

Nanoparticles Accumulate Quickly in Wetland Sediment: Aquatic food chains might be harmed by molecules "piggybacking" on carbon nanoparticles October 1st, 2014

'Stealth' nanoparticles could improve cancer vaccines October 1st, 2014

Stressed Out: Research Sheds New Light on Why Rechargeable Batteries Fail October 1st, 2014

Materials/Metamaterials

Rice launches Center for Quantum Materials: RCQM will immerse global visitors in cross-disciplinary research September 30th, 2014

How things coil: Researchers discover that simulation technology designed for Hollywood can be used as a predictive tool for understanding fundamental engineering problems September 29th, 2014

Iranian Scientists Determine Grain Size, Minimize Time of Nanocomposite Synthesis September 29th, 2014

Nanoparticles Used to Improve Quality of Bone Cement September 29th, 2014

Announcements

'Stealth' nanoparticles could improve cancer vaccines October 1st, 2014

Stressed Out: Research Sheds New Light on Why Rechargeable Batteries Fail October 1st, 2014

New Absorber Will Lead to Better Biosensor: Biosensors are more sensitive and able to detect smaller changes in the environment October 1st, 2014

Graphene chips are close to significant commercialization October 1st, 2014

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More














ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE