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Energy squeeze
Date:3/2/2012

d 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."


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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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