Video shows super-resistant jello that can withstand being run over by a car

Researchers hailing discovery of ‘squishy’ substance that can resist enormous weight

Bevan Hurley
Friday 26 November 2021 18:38 GMT
‘Super-jelly’ returns to original shape even after being run over by car

Scientists have created a new jello-like substance that can completely recover its original shape after being run over by a one-tonne car.

The squishy material is 80 per cent water, but acts more like an “ultra-hard shatterproof glass” when compressed, researchers from the University of Cambridge say.

A video released by the research team shows a chocolate bar-shaped strip of the material placed between two sheets of metal.

A 1200kg car then proceeds to drive back and forth over the metal several times.

Afterwards, the material is shown to return to its original form.

Researchers say the substance could be used for anything from soft robotics to bioelectronics or even cartilage in knee and hip replacements.

“At 80 per cent water content, you’d think it would burst apart like a water balloon, but it doesn’t: it stays intact and withstands huge compressive forces,” said Professor Oren A Scherman who led the research team.

“The properties of the hydrogel are seemingly at odds with each other.”

The hydrogel substance contains a network of specially formulated polymers with “reversible on-off interactions”, researchers say.

“We use reversible crosslinkers to make soft and stretchy hydrogels, but making a hard and compressible hydrogel is difficult and designing a material with these properties is completely counterintuitive,” the study’s first author Zehan Huang said in a statement.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that glass-like hydrogels have been made,” Dr Huang said.

The study has appeared in leading scientific journal Nature.

“The way the hydrogel can withstand compression was surprising, it wasn’t like anything we’ve seen in hydrogels,” said co-author Dr Jade McCune, also from the Department of Chemistry.

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