Materials technology company Gelest Inc. (Morrisville, PA) introduced today a new class of elastomers that achieves unprecedented elongation and shape-recovery properties. The silica nanoparticle-reinforced material approaches 5000% elongation at break; for example, a two-yard piece of the elastomer can stretch the length of a football field and return to its original shape. Gelest presented the technology this morning during a media webinar coinciding with a paper published in this week's issue of Advanced Materials. Microfluidic products and implantable devices are among the many potential applications.
"When the fabrication of a device is not possible with existing materials, we attempt to develop materials that make the design possible," said Dr. Barry Arkles, Gelest President and Chief Technology Officer, during the webcast to preface the introduction of ExSil 100, the industrial grade of the material, along with a highly refined biocompatible version. Currently available elastomers typically achieve between 100 and 1000% elongation at break, noted Arkles. ExSil's 5000% elongation at break is not an incremental advance, but a revolution in elongation, he added.
In the medical space, ExSil 100 can be used as the base polymer in microfluidic devices, used for in vitro diagnostics, "that can be stretched and rolled without failure," said Arkles. Its properties also hold potential for wearable medical devices that can be stretched to suit various anatomies and next-generation prosthetics. The material's shape recovery also could enable the design of "implantable devices that can be stretched, rolled and inserted into a syringe, injected through a small opening in the body and, once inserted, return to their original shape," explained Ed Kimble, Product Manager Silicones.
Gelest discovered the material when it was investigating silicones with different functional groups—in this case a vinyl and hydride—at opposite ends of a heterobifunctional siloxane macromonomer by means of a technique called living anionic ring opening polymerization. Researchers found the new class of materials when they subjected the macromonomer to a second step-growth polymerization process. The resulting elastomer has no apparent cross linking, explained Jonathan Goff, Senior R&D Manager, Polymers and Technical Services, and he believes that this is what accounts for the exceptional elongation.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, CA, provided characterization assistance of the material via advanced analytical technology.
Excel 100 is now available for sampling and application development.