The Loh Down On Science

Flubber

Scientists create Flubber-ific new material.

Flubber--it's not JUST for Disney movies any more!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science

and on a cool new material bouncing around.

Researchers at Scripps Institute have discovered how to "flubberize" a natural molecule into a curiously rubbery solid.

The scientists wanted to duplicate the self-assembling properties of DNA. They began with a harmless version of a bacterial virus, or "phage," that's long and thin, like a tiny pencil or spaghetti. Then they modified it by adding tiny teeth-like protrusions to protein molecules on the surface.

The protrusions bind with other molecules--much like DNA's central rungs bind to form the classic double helix.

Those teeth formed a "protein-polymer bioconjugate"--a chemical bond that's SO strong it's the molecular equivalent of superglue. No matter how much the researchers yanked, squeezed or pounded the stuff, it sprang back to its original form.

Could the phage flubber mean bouncier bungee cords? Puncture-proof tires? Actually, tiny spaces between the chemical bonds make it a superb conductor for microelectronics--

But never mind all that. Most exciting possibility? New summer movie: "Son of son of son of Flubber"


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