Science Advances

Toughening stretchable fibers via serial fracturing of a metallic core

View publication


Tough, biological materials (e.g., collagen or titin) protect tissues from irreversible damage caused by external loads. Mimicking these protective properties is important in packaging and in emerging applications such as durable electronic skins and soft robotics. This paper reports the formation of tough, metamaterial-like core-shell fibers that maintain stress at the fracture strength of a metal throughout the strain of an elastomer. The shell experiences localized strain enhancements that cause the higher modulus core to fracture repeatedly, increasing the energy dissipated during extension. Normally, fractures are catastrophic. However, in this architecture, the fractures are localized to the core. In addition to dissipating energy, the metallic core provides electrical conductivity and enables repair of the fractured core for repeated use. The fibers are 2.5 times tougher than titin and hold more than 15,000 times their own weight for a period 100 times longer than a hollow elastomeric fiber.