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Siloxane Polymer Stretches Record

Polymer Chemistry: New elastomer can elongate by nearly 5,000%

by Matt Davenport
August 31, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 34

Credit: Gelest
A machine pulls about 3 inches of the polymer (red strand) to more than 2 feet.
A black polymer object with a red stripe is stretched very far relative to its original length.
Credit: Gelest
A machine pulls about 3 inches of the polymer (red strand) to more than 2 feet.

The Pennsylvania-based materials supplier Gelest has created a siloxane polymer that is so stretchy, 2 yards of the material could extend across the length of a football field. Jonathan Goff, manager of polymer development at Gelest, publicly unveiled the new material this month at the ACS national meeting in Boston. The polymer achieves almost 5,000% elongation before breaking, which is roughly 10 times the stretch achieved by current commercial siloxane polymers, materials that are useful in medical implants, flexible electronics, and microfluidic chips. Gelest plans to sell the polymer before the end of the year, but the elastomer still harbors a mystery. Conventional polymer wisdom predicts that the new elastomer would be cross-linked, given its stretchiness. However, initial tests based on NMR and gel permeation chromatography suggest that the material is a linear polymer, the Gelest team said. “This is really, really exciting,” says Petar R. Dvornic, a professor of polymer chemistry at Pittsburg State University, in Kansas, who was not involved in developing the new material. “Linear polymers just don’t behave this way. The key thing now is to prove it’s linear.”


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