Tag Archive: polymer

  1. Fishing Line Muscles – Polymer Fibers with Shape-Memory Mimic Muscle Fibers

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    Researchers are using the structure of polymer fibers and their shape-memory characteristics to mimic muscle fibers.  This story is from ABC Science, reporting on the article published in Science:

    Using household tools such as an electric drill and hair dryer, researchers have turned nylon fibres into artificial muscles that can lift 100 times more weight than human muscles.

    The work, published today in Science, shows that extensive twisting of common fishing line and sewing thread leads to a spring-like coil with super-strength qualities.

    Collaborator Professor Geoff Spinks says it is a much-sought breakthrough that could open the door to the use of artificial muscles in clothing and prosthetic manufacture, robotics, and as a green energy source.

    Spinks, from the Australian Research Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science at the University of Wollongong, says the discovery is “almost embarrassing”.

    “It is ironic that we spent all these years looking at exotic materials — and of course the lessons we learned from those years led us to this dramatic discovery — but it is remarkable that such ordinary materials can do such amazing things,” he says.

    The breakthrough is the result of a 15-year international collaboration led by scientists at the University of Texas.

    “We knew from our previous work with carbon nanotube artificial muscles that having a particular geometry was critical, and that was a helically twisted fibrous structure,” says Spinks.

    “We knew in nylon fibres the molecules are aligned within that solid fibrous structure, so we just wondered whether the individual polymer molecules would act in the same way that was happening with the carbon nanotube system.”

    “So it was just a matter of getting these commercially available polymer fibres from the fishing store and twisting them and seeing what happened.”

    Read more at ABC Science.

    twisted fishing line

  2. Polymers in Space

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    The Cassini was launched in 1997 to study Saturn and its moons.  It contains a battery of scientific instruments that have been sending back data about the Saturn system since 2004.

    Reported by BBC News, Cassini recently sent back information that it detected on Saturn’s moon, Titan, propene or propylene – a building block of POLYPROPYLENE – a commonly used plastic.  What makes this discovery special is that it is the first time this constituent of polypropylene has been found anywhere outside of Earth.


    NASA commented:

    On Earth, this molecule, which comprises three carbon atoms and six hydrogen atoms, is a constituent of many plastics.

    It is the first definitive detection of the plastic ingredient on any moon or planet, other than our home world, says the US space agency.

    Other interesting chemicals detected on Titan include propane, and ethylene – a constituent of another common polymer – polyethylene.

    This is only part of the chemical story.  NASA scientists hypothesize that Saturn’s huge magnetic field and the effects of the sun’s ultra-violet light may yield more exotic chemistry on Titan and Saturn’s other moons.

    converted PNM fileSaturn’s moon,Titan, eclipsing Tethys, another one of Saturn’s sixty-two moons


  3. The Persistence of Data

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    persistence of data

    I recently came across this post on how long data will last here at Seagate’s blog:

    “In the past, I posted about the shelf-life of each storage medium, granted it’s not forever, but 100 years is pretty good. A lot better than disk drives and tape.

    Floppy disks: up to 5 years

    Hard Drives: up to 10 years

    Magnetic tape: up to 20 years

    Optical disks: up to 100 yrs

    SSD and Flash: up to 100 yrs

    Stone tablets: up to 10,000 yrs”

    I found it particularly interesting because he references a redOrbit article on optical data storage technology pioneered in Prof. Ken Singer’s lab in CLiPS.

  4. LEGO Power

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    Constructed for an air show in England last July, Rolls Royce commissioned the largest jet engine built entirely of LEGO blocks. The company reported:

    “The one of a kind Lego structure shows the complex inner workings of a jet engine and took four people eight weeks to complete. Including 152,455 Lego bricks, the engine weighs 307 kg and is over 2 m long and 1.5 m wide. Over 160 separate engine components were built and joined together in order to replicate a real jet engine. Everything from the large fan blades which suck air into the engine down to the combustion chambers where fuel is burned, had to be analyzed and replicated using the world famous building blocks.”

    This story was reported in the online newsletter of ASM. Read more here.