Creating stronger materials may be as simple as adding melanin, the molecule that lends skin its pigment and protects animals from ultraviolet rays.
In recent experiments, scientists found a small addition of melanin made polyurethane much stronger. Researchers described their findings in the journal Biomacromolecules.
Polyurethane mostly comes in the form of high-resistance foam, used most commonly for seating and insulation. But the material is used to enhance a variety of products, from epoxies to clothes.
Materials scientists have traded a range of additives and fillers in an attempt to bolster polyurethane, but gains have been modest and often isolated to singular physical qualities — improving either tensile strength or toughness, but not both.
A material’s tensile strength is its resistance to breaking under tension. Toughness describes a material’s ability to absorb energy without breaking.
Experiments showed polyurethane samples containing just 2 percent melanin — sourced from the ink sacs of cuttlefish — were tougher and more resistant to tension than control materials.
Filed Under: Materials • advanced