Silly Putty Makes Sensitive Sensors With Graphene

Posted: Dec 9 2016, 5:23am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

 

Silly Putty Makes Sensitive Sensors With Graphene
Prof Jonathan Coleman, Investigator in AMBER and Trinity College Dublin's School of Physics along with postdoctoral researcher Conor Boland have used graphene to make the novelty children's material silly putty® (polysilicone) conduct electricity, creating extremely sensitive sensors. This research offers exciting possibilities for applications in new, inexpensive devices and diagnostics in medicine and other sectors. Credit: AMBER, Trinity College Dublin
  • Physicist Jonathan Coleman of Trinity College Dublin with a sample of graphene-spiked “G-putty”. He is pictured with his son Oisín, holding Silly Putty.
 

Scientists are just beginning to find out that Silly Putty can be used to make highly sensitive sensors when mixed with graphene. World-first graphene innovation could be used for applications in medical devices and diagnostics.

Silly Putty often gets relegated to the realm of being a childish toy. However, such is hardly the case in real life. It has certain properties that lend it a lot of strength as a stretchable and flexible product. The applications too are myriad.

Being a very soft plastic, Silly Putty behaves paradoxically like both a liquid and a solid at one and the same time. It releases some liquid when stretched but rebounds off hard surfaces like a rubber ball. 

When mixed with graphene, Silly Putty becomes a very sensitive sensor. Graphene as everybody knows is a series of tough conductive carbon sheets.

This mixture can be employed in detecting hypertension, heart rate and even the pitter-patter of a spider’s footsteps. Scientists studied two-dimensional molecules such as graphene and suggested various tasks these nanomaterials could accomplish.

Also this all began as a series of “kitchen physics” experiments. It was meant to be fun and experimental. Yet the actual applications just grew from there onwards.  

Silly Putty may be a child’s toy yet it is also a special sort of polymer. So the next step was mixing graphene with it. The graphene sheets stuck with the Silly Putty.

The result was a blackish goo known as “g-putty”. When an electrical current was passed through this, it proved to be a good conductor of electricity. It was very sensitive to the impulses.

Even the slightest disturbance or perturbation led to the piece of g-putty showing changes in its readings. A change of 1% produced huge effects such was the level of supersensitivity. 

This made g-putty 500 times more sensitive than other similar materials. The results of this study were published in a journal. Such a material could be used in electromechanical sensors that gauge vibes.

The measurement of body movements was something this process would be ideal for. A baby’s breath would show up via this material. So would its heart rate and blood pressure which are very important vital signs.

Even a spider was employed in the experiments. It was allowed to walk on the surface of the g-putty. Its foot-falls caused tiny but definite measurements to appear on the instruments of detection. 

The findings of this discovery have been published this week in the leading journal Science.

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