Flexible, Sensitive Sensors from Silly Putty and Graphene

Everyone’s favorite viscoelastic non-Newtonian fluid has a new use, besides bouncing, stretching, and getting caught in your kid’s hair. Yes, it’s Silly Putty, and when mixed with graphene it turns out to make a dandy force sensor.

To be clear, [Jonathan Coleman] and his colleagues at Trinity College in Dublin aren’t buying the familiar plastic eggs from the local toy store for their experiments. They’re making they’re own silicone polymers, but their methods (listed in this paywalled article from the journal Science) are actually easy to replicate. They just mix silicone oil, or polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), with boric acid, and apply a little heat. The boron compound cross-links the PDMS and makes a substance very similar to the bouncy putty. The lab also synthesizes its own graphene by sonicating graphite in a solvent and isolating the graphene with centrifugation and filtration; that might be a little hard for the home gamer to accomplish, but we’ve covered a DIY synthesis before, so it should be possible.

With the raw materials in hand, it’s a simple matter of mixing and kneading, and you’ve got a flexible, stretchable sensor. [Coleman] et al report using sensors fashioned from the mixture to detect the pulse in the carotid artery and even watch the footsteps of a spider. It looks like fun stuff to play with, and we can see tons of applications for flexible, inert strain sensors like these.

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Enhance your magnetic silly putty with personal lubricants


Instructables user [killbox] seems to have come across a process that actually makes magnetic silly putty “better”, depending on your specific needs. He had tons of fun making a batch of magnetic putty, but thought that the addition of iron oxide made it stiff and a bit slow moving for his tastes.

He tried to find a household item that could act as silly putty thinner, but after trying various oils, gylcerin, and rubbing alcohol, he came up empty handed. Undeterred, he researched how silly putty itself is made, and based on its list of ingredients, decided to seek out some sort of silcone-based lubricant.

He headed out to the local sex shop, and spent some time browsing through the “personal lubricant” section, in hopes of finding what he needed. He settled on ”Gun Oil”, a silicone lubricant that also contained Dimethicone, an item on the ingredient list of the lubricant he initially used to make the batch of magnetic putty.

After adding the lubricant, he found that the putty retained its texture, but flowed far more easily. The thinner putty also consumes rare earth magnets more quickly than its unaltered brethren, as you can see in the picture above.

We’re not sure how far you could push the ferro-putty before it would become a mess, but it’s certainly warrants further experiments.

[Thanks, Mike]

Magnetism makes silly putty fun again

The image above is a screen capture from a video clip where the black ooze gobbles up that rare-earth magnet. It’s actually a blob of Silly Putty which was slightly altered to add magnetic properties. [Mikeasaurus] grabbed some ferric iron oxide powder from an art supply store and donned gloves and a dust mask while massaging it into the silicone polymer. If you get the right mix of the two materials you end up with a flowing substance that performs mysteriously when exposed to a magnetic field.

Check out the video after the break to see some of the tricks that [Mikeasaurus] can do. The putty really looks like it has a life of its own. It will stretch a remarkable distance to get close to the magnets (amorphous stretch). If left in contact with one it will fully engulf it and then form an orb.

Now, is there any way to use this with electromagnetic fields to build a morphing robot?

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