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Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Non-Newtonian Goo Saves iPhones at CES

By January 20, 2013

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Non-Newtonian fluids are those which do not have a constant coefficient of viscosity. Fluids such as the popular science experiment nicknamed Oobleck become more viscous as force is applied, but not in a linear relationship with the force being applied. As you push on Oobleck, for example, it partially solidifies in response to the pressure. So you can take a lump of Oobleck, squeeze it in your hand so that it forms a ball, and then as you hold it in your hand you'll see the ball dissolve back into a liquid.

But that's a pretty basic (and easy to make) form of these fluids. It turns out that you can apparently also make a liquid substance that turns fingers mallet-proof!

Or at least that's what's shown in an an impressive demonstration over at Popular Science, which includes wrapping the goo around a person's finger and then banging it with a mallet. The material is created by a company called Tech 21, who takes this incredibly durable substance and uses it to create impact-resistant cases for smartphones and tablets.

While this may seem like a trivial application of this technology, it's just another example of the many ways advanced materials design can impact the world. It's easy to imagine that similar materials are being applied for helmets and various other forms of safety equipment, and there are already known safety applications for these advanced materials, in making vehicle travel over rough terrain safer.


January 21, 2013 at 6:48 pm
(1) ProfChuck says:

This material is oddly reminiscent of the body shields in Dune. It will yield under slow continuous force but is hard as a rock to any sudden impact. It might make a very good bullet proof vest.

January 21, 2013 at 10:38 pm
(2) Bob says:

Sounds like silly putty to me. Also, Isaac never complained about it.

February 4, 2013 at 5:49 pm
(3) Mama Grace says:

Read Janet Edward’s new si-fi book, Earth Girl. She has whole impact suits made of a similar material. Now I see it is actually being tested this way.

February 12, 2013 at 10:27 pm
(4) J.R. Rader says:

This is extremely interesting that these kinds of materials are being put to use in everyday applications. It makes me wonder how exactly the material works from a molecular standpoint. I am assuming that upon impact the forces are simply redistributed throughout the case or helmet. It would be very interesting if more work were done on determining how and why the molecules in these sorts of materials act the way they do. I could also see this being used in a wider array of fields. How cool would it be if impact resistant knee replacements were possible?

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