In collaboration with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in the United States, Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) has created a new type of material called “chainmail” that is as versatile as material in its natural state but can be strengthened when needed.

How does “chain mail” work? If you watched illustrations and films of medieval European knights, you would have observed armour made of small iron rings sewn onto the leather. The rings would form a honeycomb-like mesh that protected troopers from bruises. As you can see, the material is able to create a robust composite that is 25x more difficult to bend or fold than the original material.

According to a press release from Caltech, the material resembles the cape worn by Batman in Batman Begins. It may very well be that Batman’s “memory cloth” cape is not simply versatile as a material, but it may very well be strong enough for him to use it as a glider when the need arises.

In a highly apparent 3D-printed material, a material with little weight, identical to material, it consists of eight equal triangular faces (hole octahedrons) that link together. It is made up of nylon plastic polymers. When these polymers are vacuum-packed inside a plastic envelope, they become 25 times more rigid.

Researchers from each university claim to have used a process called “jamming” to develop this know-how, which is akin to the way producers vacuum-pack things like rice, salt, and pulses.

According to Wang Yifan, an assistant professor at NTU, we used plastic hollow particles that were interlocked to enhance our tunable fabrics’ stiffness. In order to further increase the material’s stiffness and strength, we are now working on fabrics made from various metals, such as aluminium, which could be used for large-scale industrial applications, such as bridges and buildings.

When formed into a flat, tablet-shaped structure, and vacuum-sealed in place, the material can hold a load 50 times greater than its own weight. In addition to body armour and medical help for the elderly, the materials can also be used to construct exoskeletons for battle and sports activities.

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