A few months ago, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a patent application for a viscosity-sensitive material.
The new material has been dubbed Viscosity, which is based on a process that uses a “light” to make the material more porous and water-resistant.
But in terms of materials science, the material’s design is quite different to other viscosities that are already on the market.
It’s a different way to make materials with a high viscosivity, says Andrew J. Viscone, a materials scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
“Viscose works better for the skin because the materials are denser,” he says.
“In fact, the viscosites are so much denser that they make skin more hydrophilic and water resistant.
The skin is very sensitive, and we have to make sure that it’s completely hydrophobic to prevent irritation.”
So how does it work?
According to the patent application, the materials use a light to trigger an electrical signal that interacts with the skin’s cell membranes, creating a “pore space” in the material that changes as it absorbs water.
This “pores” allows the materials to hold more water and hold the viscera in place, making it more hydrogel.
As a result, the process can produce a material that is “a good barrier to water entry and to water retention in the skin,” Viscote says.
A water-absorbing material in a viscoelastic structure is also a great candidate for skin-healing applications, like preventing water loss in the body.
And although the viscoels can be applied in a number of different shapes, Viscouse and his colleagues wanted to design a material to have the most effective properties.
“We wanted a material with the highest density that was also flexible, but still very porous,” Vascone says.
The viscosite has been in the works for about a decade.
“The main goal was to make a material for skin that would not be very porous, and that would be more durable than existing viscositics,” Visco says.
They focused on two key factors: The materials’ shape and the size of the pores in the materials.
The shape and size of a material’s pores have a huge impact on its ability to hold water, and the materials they were designing needed to have a “strong, durable” viscoilless structure.
The researchers also designed the materials for two other main applications.
One of these is for using viscositic plastics to make clothing, such as for “skin-tight” shirts, hats, and pants.
“They need a material which is strong and strong-looking, and they also need a viscomelastic material that does not absorb water,” Viso says.
In this case, the researchers created a new viscoiless material with a very strong, water-retaining structure that can be cut with a saw blade to make it flexible.
And a second, more advanced application involves applying the materials directly to the skin, where they’re able to soak up and retain water.
“This is a very interesting application of the materials,” Vise says.
When it comes to how the materials work, it’s not clear exactly what the materials’ properties are.
“There’s a lot of research being done into how viscosates work,” Vincone says, “but the real question is, ‘how do we make a viscose that’s very flexible and hygienic, but also strong and hygenic?’
It seems like a very challenging problem.”
The team has some ideas, though.
One possibility is to create a “flexible” material with low viscosality, such that the viscaels have a low friction factor.
The team’s approach involves using two thin layers of porous material.
A first layer is “thin and flexible,” while the second is a layer of “harder, denser” material that can flex the material.
“When you’re thin and flexible, you’re good for skin, but when you’re hard and dense, you can make it much more slippery,” Vissone says., But a stiff material would also need to be very water-resistant.
To achieve that, the team decided to design their material to be as flexible as possible, to minimize the amount of water that could be absorbed.
“To make it hydrophobically, the thin layer has to have very little water, so we don’t want to make any holes,” Visone says; instead, the thinner layer has “a little bit of water at the end.”
Viscore’s team is currently working on a thin-film, porous-film viscoalloy, but the material has not been submitted to a final design evaluation.
The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.