Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Winter Hack: Textured Rubber that Grips Slick, Icy Surfaces

18.03.2015

Canadian researchers are developing less expensive ways to embed glass fibers in a stretchy elastomer that could one day be used in slip-resistant winter footwear

Winter storms dumped records amounts of snow on the East Coast and other regions of the country this February, leaving treacherous, icy sidewalks and roads in their wake. Now researchers from Canada are developing new methods to mass-produce a material that may help pedestrians get a better grip on slippery surfaces after such storms.


Reza Rizvi, Yue Li, and Sharon Ravindran/ Toronto Rehabilitation Institute

The heel of this prototype winter shoe is made from a rubbery plastic embedded with tens of thousands of tiny glass fibers that protrude out of the rubber like microscopic studs to grip the ice.

The material, which is made up of glass fibers embedded in a compliant rubber, could one day be used in the soles of slip-resistant winter boots. The researchers describe the manufacturing process in a paper in the journal Applied Physics Letters, from AIP Publishing.

The researchers are testing the material in an innovative, self-contained lab space that can be hoisted in the air and tilted to create sloped floors covered in ice and snow. The incline is increased until volunteers wearing shoes with soles made from the textured rubber start to slip. (The lab is also equipped with a padded wall and a safety harness to prevent any dangerous falls.)

"I think anyone who has slipped or fallen on ice can testify that it is a painful or nerve-raking experience," said Reza Rizvi, a postdoctoral fellow at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute who works on developing materials that can provide better traction on ice. "Now imagine being frail or disabled – a slippery sidewalk or a driveway is all that it takes to trigger a life-changing fall. A serious fall on ice resulting in a hip fracture can be a death sentence for an older adult.”

Tilak Dutta from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, a lead member of the research team, points out that actual falls are only part of the problem. “Equally important are the many older adults who feel trapped indoors for long stretches in the winter because of the fear of falling. The lack of activity and isolation have major negative impacts on health. We need to give older adults better footwear so they feel confident maintaining their outdoor activity levels in the winter."

Ice can be such a dangerous surface, Rizvi said, because when the temperature gets close to zero degrees Celsius, a thin, lubricating layer of liquid water easily forms on top of the ice. Cleated footwear provides effective winter traction because the cleats dig into the still solid ice beneath the slippery layer of water, Rizvi said, but cleats can be dangerous if the wearer does not take them off as they go inside. Cleats are very slippery on hard, wet marble or tile surfaces, for example, so a better solution for winter footwear is needed, the researchers said.

Turning Rubber into Sandpaper

Rizvi and his colleagues, including Hani Naguib from the Smart and Adaptive Polymers Lab at the University of Toronto, have developed a new method to manufacture a type of rubber that “digs in” on the micro-scale. The material is made up of thermoplastic polyurethane, a rubbery plastic, embedded with tens of thousands of tiny glass fibers that protrude out of the rubber like microscopic studs and give the material the feel of fine sandpaper.

The material looks like regular rubber and will stretch and deform in similar ways, said Rizvi. The material also performs just as well as regular rubber on dry surfaces such as quarry tile, he added. But on ice the rubber-glass fiber composite provides significantly better traction.

"The observed friction coefficients of the composites that we’ve developed would translate into fewer incidents of pedestrian slips," Rizvi said. "Implementing these in our daily lives would reduce winter related injuries."

Existing methods for fabricating the material require first extruding a rubber slab with glass fibers running parallel with the surface. The slab is then cut and reoriented so that the fibers stick out of the surface like the pins in a pincushion.

"The materials required for creating a high friction composite are not expensive, but the process of slicing and rearranging the rubber is not easily scalable," Rizvi said. The team has found a way to automate the process so that the material could be cheaply mass-produced.

The team noted that there is further work to be done to improve the wear-resistance of the material. Their testing has shown that the slip-resistant properties of the material fade with use so it would not be appropriate for commercial footwear until its robustness is improved.

"I am most excited about taking my research and having it applied to a serious societal issue of winter safety," Rizvi said.

"This work has the potential to have a real impact on the massive, expensive public health problem of winter falls, not to mention the dramatic improvement in quality of life for those living in northern climates,” Dutta added.

The article, "High Friction on Ice Provided by Elastomeric Fiber Composites with Textured Surfaces," is authored by R. Rizvi, H. Naguib, G. Fernie and T. Dutta. It will be published in the journal Applied Physics Letters on March 17, 2015 (DOI: 10.1063/1.4913676). After that date, it can be accessed at: http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/apl/106/11/10.1063/1.4913676 

The authors of this paper are affiliated with the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and the University of Toronto.

ABOUT THE JOURNAL
Applied Physics Letters features concise, rapid reports on significant new findings in applied physics. The journal covers new experimental and theoretical research on applications of physics phenomena related to all branches of science, engineering, and modern technology. See: http://apl.aip.org 

Contact Information
Catherine Meyers
Media Services Writer
cmeyers@aip.org
Phone: 301-209-3088

Catherine Meyers | newswise

Further reports about: AIP Applied Physics Letters Icy fibers glass fibers physics rubber slippery

All articles from Innovative Products >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Start codons in DNA may be more numerous than previously thought

21.02.2017 | Life Sciences

An alternative to opioids? Compound from marine snail is potent pain reliever

21.02.2017 | Life Sciences

Warming ponds could accelerate climate change

21.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>