Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Squeezing silicone polymers produces chemical energy, but raises doubts about implant safety

Date:
March 2, 2012
Source:
Northwestern University
Summary:
Scientists turned to squeezed polymers and free radicals in a search for new energy sources. They found both promise and problems. The researchers demonstrated that radicals from compressed polymers generate significant amounts of energy that can power chemical reactions in water. They also discovered that a silicone polymer commonly used in medical implants releases a large quantity of harmful free radicals when the polymer is under only a moderate amount of pressure.

A polymer is a mesh of chains, which slowly break over time due to the pressure from ordinary wear and tear. When a polymer is squeezed, the pressure breaks chemical bonds and produces free radicals: ions with unpaired electrons, full of untapped energy. These molecules are responsible for aging, DNA damage and cancer in the human body.

In a new study, Northwestern University scientists turned to squeezed polymers and free radicals in a search for new energy sources. They found incredible promise but also some real problems. Their report is published by the journal Angewandte Chemie.

The researchers demonstrated that radicals from compressed polymers generate significant amounts of energy that can be used to power chemical reactions in water. This energy has typically been unused but now can be harnessed when polymers are under stress in ordinary circumstances -- as in shoe soles, car tires or when compacting plastic bags.

They also discovered during the study that a silicone polymer commonly used in implants for cosmetic procedures releases a large quantity of harmful free radicals when the polymer is under only a moderate amount of pressure. These findings suggest the safety of certain polymer-based medical implants should be looked at more closely.

"We have established that polymers under stress create free radicals with overall efficiencies of up to 30 percent and shoot the radicals out into the surrounding medium where they can drive chemical reactions," said Bartosz A. Grzybowski, an author of the paper and the Kenneth Burgess Professor of Physical Chemistry and Chemical Systems Engineering. "These radicals can be useful or they can be harmful, depending on the situation."

Grzybowski and his team are the first to use this energy to drive chemical reactions by simply surrounding the compressed polymer with water containing desired reagents.

The radicals created in the polymer migrate toward the polymer/water interface where they produce hydrogen peroxide, which then can drive chemical processes.

"You can get a surprisingly large amount of chemical energy from a polymer under compression," Grzybowski said. "This energy is, in a sense, free for the taking. Under normal circumstances, the energy is virtually never retrieved from deformed polymers, which then age unproductively. But you could recharge a battery from the energy produced by walking or driving a car. And you could capture even more energy when compacting millions of plastic bags."

Grzybowski is also director of Northwestern's Non-Equilibrium Energy Research Center, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

"We are interested in new sources of chemical energy, and this energy from the simple breaking of polymers' bonds is not being used," he said. "By surrounding the polymer with a medium, such as water, we can produce environmentally friendly chemical energy. One direction we are pursuing is to use this energy to sanitize water in developing countries. This is possible because hydrogen peroxide produced by squeezed polymers kills bacteria."

The researchers confirmed that mechanical deformation -- moderate squeezing -- created free radicals in the polymers. They also determined the number of radicals produced in a polymer under pressure is approximately 1016 (10 to the 16th) radicals per cubic centimeter of polymer -- a substantial amount.

They next filled polymer tubes with water, squeezed the tubes and measured the total number of radicals that migrated into the surrounding solution. They found that nearly 80 percent of the radicals made the trip.

Grzybowski and his team demonstrated they can squeeze a polymer, such as what might be found in a shoe, tire or plastic bag, and get a mechanical-to-chemical energy conversion of up to 30 percent -- approaching the energy efficiency of a car engine.

The hydrogen peroxide produced when a polymer surrounded by water is squeezed can power a variety of chemical reactions, including fluorescence, nanoparticle synthesis and dye bleaching, the researchers showed.

To illustrate the process, they converted a Nike Air LeBron shoe into a "lightning shoe," where the air pockets in the polymeric sole are filled with a solution of a compound that lights up in the presence of radicals. After a person walked in the shoe for 30 minutes or more, enough radicals were created to generate a blue glow visible to the naked eye.

The researchers studied seven different polymers, including a number of particular public interest. Poly(dimethylsiloxane), a silicon-based material commonly used in medical implants, was one of them. In the lab experiments, the medium surrounding the polymer and the amount of pressure exerted on the material were similar to what would be found in the human body, Grzybowski pointed out.

"Our findings are somewhat worrisome since every polymeric implant in the human body experiences mechanical stresses and, as we now know, can produce harmful free radicals and liberate them into surrounding tissues, which may contribute to diseases such as cancer, stroke, myocardial infarction, diabetes and other major disorders," Grzybowski said. "With this knowledge, I am quite happy to have a metal implant in my knee, rather than a polymer implant.

"From a scientific perspective, our work proves yet again that a phenomenon can be useful or harmful depending on how we implement it," he said. "The same polymer can be a useful source of energy when outside of a human body, yet a potential risk hazard when implanted into it."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Northwestern University. The original article was written by Megan Fellman. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. H. Tarik Baytekin, Bilge Baytekin, Bartosz A. Grzybowski. Mechanoradicals Created in “Polymeric Sponges” Drive Reactions in Aqueous Media. Angewandte Chemie, 2012; DOI: 10.1002/ange.201108110

Cite This Page:

Northwestern University. "Squeezing silicone polymers produces chemical energy, but raises doubts about implant safety." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120302193926.htm>.
Northwestern University. (2012, March 2). Squeezing silicone polymers produces chemical energy, but raises doubts about implant safety. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120302193926.htm
Northwestern University. "Squeezing silicone polymers produces chemical energy, but raises doubts about implant safety." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120302193926.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

German Researchers Crack Samsung's Fingerprint Scanner

German Researchers Crack Samsung's Fingerprint Scanner

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) German researchers have used a fake fingerprint made from glue to bypass the fingerprint security system on Samsung's new Galaxy S5 smartphone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Porsche CEO Says Supercar Is Not Dead: Cue the Spyder 918

Porsche CEO Says Supercar Is Not Dead: Cue the Spyder 918

TheStreet (Apr. 16, 2014) The Porsche Spyder 918 proves that, in an automotive world obsessed with fuel efficiency, the supercar is not dead. Porsche North America CEO Detlev von Platen attributes the brand's consistent sales growth -- 21% in 2013 -- with an investment in new technology and expanded performance dynamics. The hybrid Spyder 918 has 887 horsepower and 944 lb-ft of torque, but it can run 18 miles on just an electric charge. The $845,000 vehicle is not a consumer-targeted vehicle but a brand statement. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
Industry's Optimism Shines At New York Auto Show

Industry's Optimism Shines At New York Auto Show

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) After seeing auto sales grow last month, there's plenty for the industry to celebrate as it rolls out its newest designs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ford Mustang Fetes Its 50th Atop Empire State Building

Ford Mustang Fetes Its 50th Atop Empire State Building

AFP (Apr. 16, 2014) Ford celebrated the 50th birthday of its beloved Mustang by displaying a new model of the convertible on top of the Empire State Building in New York. Duration: 00:28 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins