The field trip to Material ConneXion parallels the experience of a kid in the candy store. There were so many samples that you can not only look at but also touch and feel. I think Softgel from TechnoGel Italia was my favorite from the visit.
Material ConneXion’s library described it as “Polyurethane elastomer gel with low inter-molecular cross-linkage. Minimal bonding between the chains of molecules creates a highly fluid rheology similar to a liquid, while retaining the shape retention properties of a solid.” I was first attracted by its bright color and its shape that reminded me of a piece of candy or a toy. It was even more exciting when I poked it!
I love the squishy and soft feel which is similar to silicone yet will more fluidity. With some more research, I realized that this gel uses no plasticizers. Once the gel is solidified, it will form a liquid interior and an external layer of “skin” that maintains the shape of the mold it was settled in. Softgel is highly deformable yet will always return to its original form once the force is removed which reminded me of memory foam mattress technology. Memory foam mattresses provide more support and comfort with lower motion transfer by adapting users’ movements.
The same technology is often applied in shoe insoles and athletic gears. I have used insoles like the image below before. However, I found it a bit awkward to use since the gel does not really adhere to the inner layer of the shoe which shifts around when walking.