U-M research: New plastic is strong as steel, transparent

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—By mimicking a brick-and-mortar molecular
structure found in seashells, University of Michigan researchers
created a composite plastic that's as strong as steel but lighter and

It's made of layers of clay nanosheets and a water-soluble polymer that shares chemistry with white glue.

Engineering professor Nicholas Kotov almost dubbed it "plastic steel,"
but the new material isn't quite stretchy enough to earn that name.
Nevertheless, he says its further development could lead to lighter,
stronger armor for soldiers or police and their vehicles. It could also
be used in microelectromechanical devices, microfluidics, biomedical
sensors and valves and unmanned aircraft.

Kotov and other U-M faculty members are authors of a paper on this
composite material, "Ultrastrong and Stiff Layered Polymer
Nanocomposites," published in the Oct. 5 edition of Science.

scientists solved a problem that has confounded engineers and
scientists for decades: Individual nano-size building blocks such as
nanotubes, nanosheets and nanorods are ultrastrong. But larger
materials made out of bonded nano-size building blocks were
comparatively weak. Until now.


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