Silly Putty may be less silly than you might think as the base material was discovered to be useful in a new role, that of a graphene-mixed sensor.
More popular and well-known as kids’ toy and distractions, Silly Putty seems a highly unlikely scientific element.
However, scientists from the Trinity College Dublin AMBER Center could come to contradict this belief. A study, led by Jonathan Coleman, points out the putty’s potential.
Coleman is an AMBER investigator and Trinity College Dublin School of Physics professor. He was aided in his study, amongst others, by Conor Boland, a postdoctoral researcher.
The study was published earlier this week in the Science journal under the following title. “Sensitive electromechanical sensors using viscoelastic graphene-polymer nanocomposites”.
Contrary to the silly name, the research and its results are quite serious. The Silly Putty was observed to become an extremely sensitive sensor.
Such a result was achieved thanks to the putty’s composition and graphene. The putty is actually polysilicon, a material capable of conducting electricity when mixed with graphene.
The such created sensors could have a wide variety of areas of use. Medicine and its various diagnostics sensors are amongst the most vehiculated such areas.
Graphene was noted to have unique conductivity properties. In its part, the Silly Putty was recognized for its deformation abilities. The polysilicon can be molded in almost each and every shape.
The team of scientists to study the two elements sought to determine if the two could be combined. Such a combination could, and did lead to a highly moldable sensor.
As the team proceeded to infuse the putty with graphene it also changed its name. The newly titled G-putty was observed to be extremely sensitive. This property expands to both impacts and deformations.
Following its creation, the G-putty was put to a series of tests. These were selected as to determine its sensitivity and effectiveness.
As the team placed it on various human subjects’ body parts, the results were almost unexpected. The material was placed on the chest and neck areas of the participating subjects.
The placement was chosen so as to determine if it could register their pulse, breathing or even their blood pressure.
Such G-putty tests revealed the Silly Putty derivate high sensitivity. As a sensor, the material was demonstrated to be hundreds of times more sensitive than the normal such devices.
Testing revealed that the putty could register the aforementioned biological processes as it proved its strain and pressure sensitivity.
Professor Coleman, the aforementioned study lead, presented some of its potential future uses. According to him, the G-putty presented an unprecedented behavior.
No other composite material has been found to as sensitive and able to register state changes. Previous tests had already mixed graphene to plastics.
This was done so as to improve their mechanical, thermal, barrier, or electrical properties.
One of the possible causes of the putty’s unprecedented properties are its base features. The Silly Putty is a somewhat paradoxical material. It behaves like both a liquid and a solid, usually at the same time.
When stretched, the putty releases liquids but it is quick to rebound when entering into contact with hard surfaces.
These abilities, mixed with the graphene, could transform it into a very flexible and stretchable, and also strong product.
As such, it could come to be used as an electromechanical sensor. Capable of gauging even the slightest vibes, it could be employed in detecting heart rates or hypertension.
In order to demonstrate the G-putty sensitivity in detecting vital signal, the researchers used a spider. As they let the spider move across the polymer’s surface, even its almost undetectable movements were registered.
Although tiny, the Silly Putty derivate registered definite spider traces on its detection instruments.
Image Source: Flickr