New research shows how clustered particles determine elasticity of some gels
From the toothpaste you squeeze on your brush first thing in the morning to the yogurt you slurp down to the fabric softener that keeps your pajamas cozy and soft, gels are ubiquitous in consumer products, foods, and in industrial applications, too.
However, until now, scientists have been unable to explain the microscopic structures within gels that impart their elasticity, or springiness, nor how those structures form. A team of scientists from the University of Delaware, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University and University of Michigan discovered that the elasticity of gels arises from the packing of clusters of particles in the gels, which the group dubbed locally glassy clusters.
This research, described in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, could help people engineer better materials and products at the microscale. This insight could help companies in the consumer products, biotechnology, and agriculture sectors and beyond.