Chewing Gum Plus Carbon Nanotubes

Normally, strain sensors are limited in their flexibility by the underlying substrate. This lead researchers at the University of Manitoba to an off-the-wall solution: mixing carbon nanotubes into a chewing-gum base. You can watch their demo video below the break.

The procedure, documented with good scientific rigor, is to have a graduate student chew a couple sticks of Doublemint for half an hour, and then wash the gum in ethanol and dry it out overnight. Carbon nanotubes are then added, and the gum is repeatedly stretched and folded, like you would with pizza dough, to align the ‘tubes. After that, just hook up electrodes and measure the resistance as you bend it.

The obvious advantage of a gum sensor is that it’s slightly sticky and very stretchy. The team says it works when stretched up to five times its resting length. Try that with your Power Glove.

We’ve seen a couple different DIY flex sensor solutions around these parts, one based on compressing black conductive foam and another using anti-static bags, but the high-tech, low-tech mixture of nanotubes and Wrigley’s is a new one.

13 thoughts on “Chewing Gum Plus Carbon Nanotubes

  1. Wouldn’t the gum become hard, even brittle, over time?

    Temperature would be a HUGE factor here too. Hot days could see this gum become a gooey mess and cold days would see it hard as a rock.

  2. Silicone + cornflour + carbon nanotubes… work it for 15 minutes, whereupon it will set into a firm rubber. Now where can I get some carbon nantubes to play with? Guess what … ebay.

    1. Ethanol is quite an effective disinfectant. And as long as the guys chewing it did not have some disease it will not be dangerous. I also thought about using pure fresh gum base, but only for the reason of reproduceability.

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