Research and development across multiple industries has resulted in safety gear being lighter, more comfortable, and safer than ever before. By developing a new material with unique qualities, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently made a breakthrough in energy management. Evidently, rubber, being as flexible as it is, is capable of absorbing and releasing huge amounts of energy, but what if it was even better?

This meta-material, which is essentially an artificial composite material with electromagnetic properties, might be used in a variety of industries, including robotics and electronics, to provide additional power without the use of additional energy sources like batteries. It can also be utilized to ensure faster energy dissipation in safety and protection equipment and materials, making it ideal for usage in high-impact situations like motorbikes, racing, and even sports equipment.

This novel elasto-magnetic material, which is made up of an elastic substance with small magnets, achieves this by taking use of its properties during phase transitions, or the point when an element changes states, such as when water freezes into a solid or evaporates into a gas.

To put this rather abstract concept into context, Professor Alfred Crosby of the University of Massachusetts compares the meta-material to a rubber band stating, “Imagine a rubber band. You pull it and when you release it, it flies across the room. Now imagine a super rubber band. When you stretch it to a certain point, you activate excess energy stored in the material. When you let go of that rubber band, it flies a mile.”

The most intriguing aspect of this meta-material, however, is that the researchers were able to totally control phase transitions in one direction or the other, allowing them to choose whether it should release massive amounts of energy, or absorb the energy of major impacts on command. This technology, without a doubt, has the ability to transform the safety of motorcycle equipment, especially if it can be programmed to sense impacts via a sensor or accelerometer—technology which already exists, and is ubiquitously applied in modern day safety gear.

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