Dutch researchers have developed a gel-forming polymer so effective that a kilogram of the stuff sprinkled across an Olympic sized swimming pool would turn the entire thing to jelly. At least, that's how they describe the properties of polyisocyanide polymer, which they've just revealed to the world in the journal Nature. Materials scientist Alan Rowan at the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands calls it the best gel-forming polymer in the world, "an order of magnitude better than anything else." All you have to do is add a little heat.
This is cool on a number of levels. First of all, though the researchers have not yet experimented with a real Olympic swimming pool, the ability to rapidly turn large bodies of water into gelatin is sure to have major impacts in the disciplines of both cocktail party tricks and teenage petty vandalism. But from a materials science standpoint the polymer really is a breakthrough, exhibiting properties that are pretty strange and exciting, at least if you're the kind of person who gets excited by material properties.
For one, most gels form upon cooling, not heating (think: Jell-O), which opens the door to some interesting potential applications. Further, polyisocyanide polymer is the first to demonstrate a rigidity that matches that found in biological polymers. Almost all naturally occuring biopolymers possess a kind of inherent rigidity that synthetic polymers simply lack, but Rowan's polymer is an exception. Its polymer strands consist of a helical backbone surrounded by short peptide arms sticking out from the sides. Each of these peptide arms is in turn tipped with a long tail of repeating carbon and oxygen chains that are nicely suited to grabbing water molecules, making it quite soluble.
But once dissolved, heating it causes the tails to push water molecules away and link up to other tails belonging to other polymer strands, rapidly building a polymer structure with the water trapped in between. The result is a gel that forms within seconds once the water/polymer mix hits a certain temperature (it's unclear exactly what that temperature is, and it may vary depending on external factors).
Beyond Olympic-pool-sized servings of gelatin, such a fast-forming gelatin mixture could be used to quickly plug open wounds--simply pour in the cold mixture in and let body temperature stiffen it up. This polymer bandage could then be later removed with nothing but an ice pack.
I wonder what harm it might cause to humans if ingested?
As long as it is safe to humans, neat!
I can't imagine yet the usefulness of this polymer yet, so
I look forward to other peoples comments!
I could see this used as a non lethal way to stop boats, simply fire a casing of the polymer along with a chemical heater to quickly gum up the props of a boat.
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'
Could this be used for environmental catastrophes such as the BP spill?
Agreed! Imagine a Mac truck tanker spill or Train tanker spill into the environment. Considering a kilogram makes a swimming pool gel, it could be an environmental disaster to clean up.
This is pretty interesting news. intriguing news but yes this could have helped the oil spill in many ways.
I saw something like this on a movie or something.
It got loose and turned all the world's water to jelly.
Now they made it for real.
What could possibly go wrong?
Amazing. I wonder if it`s biodegradable perhaps this could be dispersed in large quantities by plane into approaching hurricanes like previously with SANDY and make much of the water (not the wind) fall down into the ocean before it hits. With Superstorm SANDY that would have saved tens of billions of dollars in costs from water damage/flooding.
Maybe it could be used in storing large volumes of water in gelatinous form, and later be extracted out. That would be useful in carrying water in space.
Does it come in flavors and colors?
So thats how ninjas ran on water they throw some of this down and book it...
Am I the only one who is scared by this? Terrorists could fill up drones with this substance and crash it into the great lakes or something...seems more dangerous than good at this point. Ice nine indeed.
Might make a good weapon to spray on terrorists to immobilize them in yucky mucky sticky stuff. Certainly something to look into for our schools to protect kids.
That bandage idea would be cooler if the stuff wasn't made of cyanide..
As for the ninja idea from craj, shhhh! the Christians are listening...
Yeah, my mind immediately went to Ice-nine...imagine a tanker full of this stuff accidentally going into a water supply. ^ ^;
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If its that efficient and you put it on a open wound would it expand into your blood stream?
I don't know the bonding properties of this material, but getting FDA approval for a battle dressing compound containing cyanide...guess it's all about quantity transferred over time. Say someone with 3 gunshot wounds needs dressed. Could this be safely used to treat him for as many hours as needed? Then, how does it react in contact with our range of biochemicals? People tend to get shot pretty much all over. I don't think this would be good in contact with acids, specifically. Methane gas or solids either.
Wouldn't turning water into gel be harmful for wildlife in the vicinity? In that case, I'd rather see it used for emergency purposes, say, stopping ships fast or helping people escape sinking cruise ships does sound nice though.
jjavid's idea is wonderful as well.
With all the "brine trucks" hauling used frack water in the gas wells if this stuff is not a haz-mat in itself. It could be very usefull to control the brine water before it gets into the water sources, when there is a spill on the highway, railroad or pipeline.It may be very helpfull" or not" time will tell.
Agreed! Imagine a Mac truck tanker spill or Train tanker spill into the environment. Considering a kilogram makes a swimming pool gel, it could be an environmental disaster to clean up."
From the article:
"(it’s unclear exactly what that temperature is, and it may vary depending on external factors)."
In other words, you lack sufficient information to draw such conclusions.
quasi44, polyisocyanide polymer may have cyanide as an ingredient but that's not free cyanide. As you recognized, the transfer issue is over time - if at all depending upon how the polymer breaks down in the body.
Good information about the swimming pool, in adding the gels in the swimming pool it can cool the water. This type of gel are generally used in the swimming pool and in the Olympic games it is used very well, by adding the gel it can help for using the swimming pool. Swimming pool is a thing that can be used by most of the people and for giving the good service to the customers, the owners give all facility.
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