Friday, October 5, 2012

Fluid cathedrals: Gels under the microscope

Professor Michael Solomon and doctoral student Lilian Hsiao, both in chemical engineering, discuss the architectural structures revealed by the 3D map of particles inside a gel. Image credit: Laura Rudich.

A dollop of hair gel might not look like much, but Michigan Engineering researchers have found that it's a labyrinth of chambers and domes, constructed by the particles inside. These structures allow the gel to hold its shape and determine how much pressure it can withstand before it starts to flow.

While manufacturers currently use trial and error to develop gels with a particular degree of solidity, this discovery could provide a way to design gels for particular applications.