Original news release was issued by the University of Central Florida.
A finding by a University of Central Florida researcher unlocks a means of controlling materials at the nanoscale and opens the door to a new generation of manufacturing.
Using a pair of pliers in each hand and gradually pulling taut a piece of glass fiber coated in plastic, associate professor Ayman Abouraddy found that something unexpected and never before documented occurred – the inner fiber fragmented in an orderly fashion.
“What we expected to see happen is NOT what happened,” he said. “While we thought the core material would snap into two large pieces, instead it broke into many equal-sized pieces.”
The process of pulling fibers to force the realignment of the molecules that hold them together, known as cold drawing, has been the standard for mass production of flexible fibers like plastic and nylon for most of the last century.
Abouraddy and his team have shown that the process may also be applicable to multi-layered materials, a finding that could lead to the manufacturing of a new generation of materials with futuristic attributes. By carefully controlling the loading condition imparted to the fiber, materials can be developed with tailored performance attributes. “Advanced fibers are going to be pursuing the limits of anything a single material can endure today,” Abouraddy said.
For example, packaging together materials with optical and mechanical properties along with sensors that could monitor such vital sign as blood pressure and heart rate would make it possible to make clothing capable of transmitting vital data to a doctor’s office via the Internet.
“Dr. Abouraddy has found a new application of necking” – a process that occurs when cold drawing causes non-uniform strain in a material, said Robert S. Hoy, a University of South Florida physicist who specializes in the properties of materials like glass and plastic, and one of the co-authors of the paper. “Usually you try to prevent necking, but he exploited it to do something potentially groundbreaking.”
Abouraddy said that cold-drawing is what makes synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester useful. While those fibers are initially brittle, once cold-drawn, the fibers toughen up and become useful in everyday commodities. This discovery at DuPont at the end of the 1920s ushered in the age of textiles and garments made of synthetic fibers.
The implications for manufacturing of the smart materials of the future are vast. By controlling the mechanical force used to pull the fiber and therefore controlling the breakage patterns, materials can be developed with customized properties allowing them to interact with each other and eternal forces such as the sun (for harvesting energy) and the internet in customizable ways.