Stretchy Hydrogel Discs Developed at Tsinghua University for Inflatable Robots.

Hyperelastic gel is recognized as one of the most stretchable materials in the scientific community

A hydrogel disc developed by Lili Chen and her team at Tsinghua University in Beijing is capable of increasing its area by 100 times when stretched. This hydrogel is extremely stretchy, with the ability to stretch up to 15 times its initial length. The researchers inserted pearl-necklace chains into the hydrogel structure, made up of coiled polymer beads connected by a chain of carbon atoms. These chains can unfurl under strain and rewind when the strain is released. By drying out the hydrogel, the polymer chains were attracted to themselves, allowing the hydrogel to stretch to impressive lengths before returning to its original size.

In experiments, the researchers found that a 30-centimetre length of their hydrogel could stretch to nearly 5 metres before returning to its original size in a few seconds. A 2-centimetre-wide disc of the hydrogel could increase 100 times in area before returning to its original size. This versatile material was used to create inflatable robotic grippers capable of gently handling delicate objects like strawberries. These grippers were extremely damage resistant, able to withstand a person standing on them or being pierced with a needle.

This research represents a significant advancement in high-performance polymeric materials and opens up new possibilities in both materials science and soft robotics. Experts such as Zehuan Huang at Peking University in China note that this work has the potential to inspire further developments in the utilization of hyper-elastic gels in various applications.

Leave a Reply