What do you get when you mix Silly Putty with graphene?

An Irish team of scientists' creation of highly sensitive G-Putty has expanded the technological possibilities for inventions using so-called 'wonder material.'

What do you get when you combine an all-time favorite children’s toy with a Nobel Prize-winning “wonder material”?

G-Putty – a new elastic sensory material capable of detecting the footsteps of a spider or a human pulse.

A research team led by scientist Jonathan Coleman at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, and his colleagues discovered a way to combine the ubiquitous toy, Silly Putty with graphene – an electrically conductive, crystal-like formation that is one atom thick and derived from a block of graphite, according to the paper published Thursday in the journal Science.

Since two Russian-born scientists won a Nobel Prize for successfully isolating graphene in 2010, the nanomaterial has caught the imagination of the scientific community for its potential to yield a new generation of inventions, from electronic displays and solar panels, to lighter, stronger composite materials used in everything from bullet-proof vests to airliners and spacecraft.

The new G-Putty, the conductivity of which dramatically changes when it is squashed or stretched, opens up a further array of potential technological applications.

“If you touch it even with the slightest pressure or deformation, the electrical resistance will change significantly,” Dr. Coleman told Popular Science.

“Even if you stretch or compress the Silly Putty by one percent of its normal size, the electrical resistance will change by a factor of five. And that’s a huge change.”

The researchers added that G-Putty has sensitivity 500 times that of most existing strain sensors.

Coleman credits one of his graduate students, Conor Boland, with the idea to incorporate the graphene into Silly Putty after thinking, “ ‘Well, Silly Putty is a kids toy, but it’s really just a polymer, and a lot of people mix graphene with polymers—so why don’t we mix graphene with Silly Putty and see what happens?’ ”

Graphene alone was already a remarkable material.

The Monitor's Pete Spotts described it in 2010 as a "vanishingly thin material [that] is at least 100 times stronger than steel, conducts electricity more efficiently than copper, is highly flexible and the most transparent material known, and is remarkably efficient at conducting heat.”

Combined with the elastic properties of the Silly Putty, it may also have a range of medical applications, as it is capable of measuring a baby’s breath, as well as a person’s heart rate and even blood pressure.

To demonstrate the sensitivity of the new putty, Mr. Boland coaxed a spider to walk across it to measure its tiny footfalls – but it wasn’t easy.

“The real problem was that when a spider would put one foot onto the putty, it didn’t like the feel of it at all, so it would run the other direction,” Coleman told Popular Science. “It was very difficult to get a spider to stay on it long enough to generate the train of footsteps.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to What do you get when you mix Silly Putty with graphene?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today