Scientists are working on making polymers that are sensitive to mechanical stress, so that they can see areas of damage before a complete malfunction occurs.
By Yun Xie
We can sense the pressure from a tap on the shoulder or a pat on the back because we have mechanoreceptors that undergo conformational changes when we experience touch. They allow us to register and get away from a bruising grip before it causes injury. So far, this ability to detect differences in mechanical stress is unique to biological tissues—synthetic materials generally lack the ability to report the degree of stress they're under before getting damaged.