Researchers in Japan have developed a new viscoelastic material that remains stable over an incredibly wide temperature range – from –196 °C to 1000 °C. This is the first such material of its kind as rubbery materials like these normally break down at high temperatures and become brittle when too cold.
Scientists have been studying carbon nanotubes for the last 20 years because these materials have many remarkable properties that include extremely high tensile strength and high electrical conductivity. Now, Ming Xu of AIST in Tsukuba and colleagues have discovered yet another exceptional property in these tubes – viscoelasticity over a wide temperature range.
Viscoelastic materials behave like thick liquids (for example, honey) but are also reversibly elastic, like rubber bands. One example of such a material is polymer foam – widely used in earplugs that adapt themselves to the shape of your ear yet recover their original form after they are removed. Viscoelasticity is seen in a variety of materials, including amorphous and semicrystalline polymers, some biomaterials, crystals and even some metallic alloys.