Chemists at Trinity College, Dublin have invented a special gel with many diverse applications.
It can be used, for example, to stop scars forming on the skin, or as a car polish which gets rid of scratches.
Icelander Þorri Gunnlaugsson is described as the main man behind the project and has worked at the famous college for over a decade. Þorri says that research into gels has become increasingly important in recent years, because it is useful, but also cheap and easy to manufacture.
As so often happens, the scientists discovered their gel by mistake.
“We were working on using metal ions to help make assemblies of larger molecules,” Þorri told Irish Times.
The gel was presented to the world in a paper in the Journal of the Americal Chemical Society, which Þorri published with Dr. Oxana Kotova.
The gel would have come to nothing, had the researchers not added two metals, europium and terbium, “We use these metals because they can connect to three or more ligands around them and they begin to organise themselves into shapes which would otherwise be impossible to form,” Þorri says. “It is like jelly, you can push it around. We cut it with a scalpel and pulled it apart but then it grew back together and healed itself before our eyes.”
The gel is still in the early stages of research, but there is a lot of hope for its future—not least for potentially treating burns victims, by sealing the wounds and protecting the new skin against scarring.