Mud, the New Plastic

Photo courtesy Wikipedia


Seems like we may have a means of weaning ourselves off oil. At least plastics made from oil.

The research from the University of Tokyo, published in Nature, describes a new and better “plastic” brewed from clay, water, a thickening agent (sodium polyacrylate) and an organic “molecular glue.”

The end result is a super strong, self-healing, transparent and elastic hydrogel composed of 98 percent water and bound by supramolecular forces, otherwise known as “smart molecules.”

Better yet, the gel takes just 3 minutes to form, and making it requires no understanding of the chemical process involved, reports New Scientist:

“Toughness, self-healing and robustness are just some of the initial physical properties that will be found for this new class of materials,” Craig Hawker [of UCSB, not involved in the study] says. “I predict that this approach will lead to the design of even more impressive materials in the near future.”

This is big. Big enough to score an ultra-prestigious Nature publication. Maybe big enough to significantly change the future. Good old mud.
 

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  • Julia Whitty is the environmental correspondent for Mother Jones. Her latest book is Deep Blue Home: An Intimate Ecology of Our Wild Ocean. For more of her stories, click here.