Scientists develop new material that adapts to environment

Researchers, including those from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, looked at a sea worm called Nereis virens in order to create a material, which has the ability to be flexible or rigid at convenience.

Last Updated: Apr 30, 2017, 22:42 PM IST

New Delhi: Scientists have used a synthesised protein to developed a new material that can get as hard as human bones or as flexible as gelatin depending on the environment around it.

"The material is a hydrogel made from a synthesised protein, similar to the one that makes up the jaw of the Nereis virens sea worm and which gives it structural stability and impressive mechanical performance," said Martin-Martinez from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"When we change the ions of the environment and the salt concentration, the material expands or contracts," Martinez said.

Researchers, including those from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, looked at a sea worm called Nereis virens in order to create a material, which has the ability to be flexible or rigid at convenience.

The jaw of this worm has a texture similar to gelatin, but if the environment varies, the material may adopt the hardness of dentin or human bones, researchers said.

The team found that at the molecular level, the structure of protein material is strengthened when the environment contains zinc ions and certain pH indexes.

The Zinc ions create chemical bonds with the structure of the compound. These bonds are reversible and can form or break at convenience, making the material more dynamic and flexible, researchers said.

(With Agency inputs)