Researchers at Cornell University have somewhat accidentally created a strange new kind of metamaterial that flows like a liquid metal but also remembers its shape. In the presence of water, the liquid metamaterial snaps back into the form of its original container--a property that could have significant applications in treating wounds and beyond.
The material could be infused with drugs, then shaped to fit perfectly inside a wound. "When a drug can flow into a cavity as a liquid and then conform to the shape of the cavity and stay there as a solid (gel), it offers unprecedented opportunities [in the] delivery of drugs," researcher Dan Luo says in an email.
The material is actually a hydrogel, one of those matrices of organic molecules that are filled with empty spaces. They are among the lightest materials we know of. Hydrogels have been touted as the next big thing on many frontiers, including drug-delivery schemes in which their extra real estate is used to hold pharmaceuticals that are released over time as the hydrogel dissolves.