A study on the new material has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A research team from the University of Massachusetts Amherst engineered a new metamaterial, a material that has a property not found in naturally occurring materials. The "elasto-magnetic" metamaterial comprises an elastic, rubber-like substance with tiny magnets embedded throughout it.
"Imagine a rubber band. You pull it back, and when you let it go, it flies across the room. Now imagine a super rubber band. When you stretch it past a certain point, you activate extra energy stored in the material. When you let this rubber band go, it flies for a mile," said Alfred Crosby, professor of polymer science and engineering at UMass Amherst and the paper's senior author.
The amount of energy released and absorbed by the material is amplified by utilizing phase changes. Changes from solid to liquid, and liquid to gaseous states, involve absorption of energy into a material, and changes back release an equivalent amount of energy.
"To amplify energy release or absorption, you have to engineer a new structure at the molecular or even atomic level. We have overcome these challenges, and have not only made new materials, but also developed the design algorithms that allow these materials to be programmed with specific responses, making them predictable," said Crosby.
"By embedding tiny magnets into the elastic material, we can control the phase transitions of this metamaterial. And because the phase shift is predictable and repeatable, we can engineer the metamaterial to do exactly what we want it to do: either absorbing the energy from a large impact, or releasing great quantities of energy for explosive movement," said Xudong Liang, the paper's lead author.
You can read more from the study here.
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