Structural material from University of Leeds and Imperial College London consists of a hydrogel within a silicone-based matrix that enables it to be both flexible and strong.


  • Stronger
  • Flexible
  • Lightweight


  • Machinery
  • Automobiles
  • Prosthetics

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 9: Industry Innovation & Infrastructure

The Challenge

Bearings are important components to many mechanical systems. They are commonly solid metal spheres that provide a connection point between static and dynamic parts. Due to the movement at the connection point, bearings have a low tolerance to damage. When a bearing fails the whole apparatus may stop working, leading to increased labor, costs, and waste.

Innovation Details

The material is designed to function as a bearing. It consists of hydrogel held in a matrix of a silicon-based called poly-dimethylsiloxane. Hydrogels are known for their ability to absorb water and provide a low-friction surface, but they are also easily deformed. The matrix provides structure for the bearing to hold up under compressive forces. These bearings are effective and can be easily customized to fit in to an array of machines.

Biomimicry Story

A joint is where two bones meet in the body. Different joints allow for different types of movement. Cartilaginous joints are connected by cartilage and allow for small movements: for example, the spine’s vertebrae. The cartilage protects the bone an joint from the wear and tear of repeated motions, much like a mechanical bearing.