Advanced Functional Materials
Rope making is a millennia old technique to collectively assemble numerous weak filaments into flexible and high tensile strength bundles. However, delicate soft matter fibers lack the robustness to be twisted into bundles by means of mechanical rope making tools. Here, weak microfibers with tensile strengths of a few kilopascals are combined into ropes via microfluidic twisting. This is demonstrated for recently introduced fibers made of bicontinuous interfacially jammed emulsion gels (bijels). Bijels show promising applications in use as membranes, microreactors, energy and healthcare materials, but their low tensile strength make reinforcement strategies imperative. Hydrodynamic twisting allows to produce continuous bijel fiber bundles of controllable architecture. Modelling the fluid flow field reveals the bundle geometry dependence on a subtle force balance composed of rotational and translational shear stresses. Moreover, combining multiple bijel fibers of different compositions enables the introduction of polymeric support fibers to raise the tensile strength to tens of megapascals, while simultaneously preserving the liquid like properties of the bijel fibers for transport applications. Hydrodynamic twisting shows potentials to enable the combination of a wide range of materials resulting in composites with features greater than the sum of their parts.
Kharal, S. P., Hesketh, R. P., & Haase, M. F. (2020). High‐Tensile Strength, Composite Bijels through Microfluidic Twisting. Advanced Functional Materials 2020, 2003555. https://doi.org/10.1002/adfm.202003555
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