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High strength in combination with high toughness in robust and sustainable polymeric materials

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Science  13 Dec 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6471, pp. 1376-1379
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay9033

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Strong and tough fibers

Dragline spider silk is known for its combination of strength and toughness, but this combination has been hard to replicate in synthetic fibers. Liao et al. electrospun polyacrylonitrile-co-methyl acrylate fibers modified with a small amount of poly(ethylene glycol) bisazide (PEG-BA) (see the Perspective by Fox). After collecting the electrospun yarn, it was annealed under tension that both aligned the small fibers and cross-linked them together via the PEG-BA. As hoped, the overall properties were comparable to those of spider silk.

Science, this issue p. 1376; see also p. 1314

Abstract

In materials science, there is an intrinsic conflict between high strength and high toughness, which can be resolved for different materials only through the use of innovative design principles. Advanced materials must be highly resistant to both deformation and fracture. We overcome this conflict in man-made polymer fibers and show multifibrillar polyacrylonitrile yarn with a toughness of 137 ± 21 joules per gram in combination with a tensile strength of 1236 ± 40 megapascals. The nearly perfect uniaxial orientation of the fibrils, annealing under tension in the presence of linking molecules, is essential for the yarn’s notable mechanical properties. This underlying principle can be used to create similar strong and tough fibers from other commodity polymers in the future and can be used in a variety of applications in areas such as biomedicine, satellite technology, textiles, aircrafts, and automobiles.

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