Pressurized insertion of aqueous solutions into water-repellent nano-porous materials, such as zeolites and metal-organic frameworks, could help to create high-performance, energy-absorbing systems. Researchers experimented with hydrothermally stable zeolitic imidazolate frameworks (ZIFs) with a hydrophobic cage-like molecular structure, finding that such systems are remarkably effective energy absorbers at realistic, high-rate loading conditions and this phenomenon is associated with the water clustering and mobility in nanocages.
Rubber is widely used for shock absorption but the new process creates a material that can absorb more mechanical energy per gram with very good reusability due to its unique nanoscale mechanism. The material has significance for vehicle crash safety for both occupants and pedestrians, military armored vehicles and infrastructures, and as human body protection. Soldiers and police could benefit from better body armor and bomb suits and athletes could have more effective helmets, knee pads, and shoe insoles since the material is liquidlike and flexible to wear.
The reusability of the material, stemming from the spontaneous liquid extrusion, also makes the material suitable for damping purposes, meaning that it could be used to create vehicles with lower noise and vibration as well as better ride comfort. The material could also be incorporated into machinery to reduce harmful vibrations and noise, reducing maintenance costs. It could be used to reduce vulnerability to earthquakes for bridges and buildings.