Columbia scientists take inspiration from shells to create powerful polymer

A team of researchers at Columbia University developed a new technique for creating a new quality of polymers. Taking inspiration from the strength and resilience of oyster shells, they demonstrated that by slowing the polymer’s speed of crystallization, they were able to control how nanoparticles assemble into multiscale ordering. The resultant material is noticeably stronger than other polymers, while remaining flexible and lightweight.

“While achieving the spontaneous assembly of nanoparticles into a hierarchy of scales in a polymer host has been a ‘holy grail’ in nanoscience, until now there has been no established method to achieve this goal,” said Dan Zhao, PhD student.

The team was able to share data with outside collaborators from Pennsylvania State University, RPI, University of South Carolina and Laboratoire Léon Brillouin, France using NYSERNet’s R&E network.