Researchers at the University of Michigan look to have made a fairly significant advance in the oft-explored field of plastics, with them now showing off a sheet of plastic that's not only transparent, but as "strong as steel." That impressive feat was apparently made possible by "mimicking a brick-and-mortar molecular structure found in seashells" or, more specifically, by mixing layers of clay nanosheets with a water-soluble polymer solution. That combination also apparently gave rise to what the researchers call the "velcro effect," which allows any bonds that are broken to be reformed quickly, further adding to the materials strength. What's more, to handle the tedious task of actually building the material, the researchers employed their very own robotic arm, which meticulously pieced together each layer of polymer and clay nanosheets, with 300 of each required to make a sheet the thickness of regular plastic wrap.

[Via Digg, photo courtesy of Cosmos/University of Michigan]

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