The aftermath of several winter snowstorms have left behind dangerous slippery icy roads and walkways that are causing people to fall and get injured. In order to combat this issue, Canadian researchers have been hard at work coming up with new ways to mass-produce a new kind of textured rubber material that could help pedestrians avoid slipping on ice by getting better traction.
The new rubber material, discussed in the journal of Applied Physics Letter, is manufactured with glass fibers implanted into the rubber. Research is currently being conducted to see if this substance could potentially be used to create soles for slip-resistant boots and shoes.
At the moment, scientists are running tests on the substance inside a self-contained laboratory, where they can create a slanted floor space, covered with snow and ice. The slope can be increased slowly, allowing volunteers wearing the special sole-fitted shoes to see how long they can stay on their feet.
One of the scientists studying the textured rubber material is Tilak Dutta, from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. Dutta stresses that there is more to consider than just someone falling on ice or snow. Older people, for example, develop a cabin fever-like condition where they resist going outside of their front door due to the fear of falling on the ice or snow. As a result of this, the elderly can become depressed or end up in bad health.
More slip resistant footwear would provide its users with a a sense of security and safety. The researchers from the Smart and Adaptive Polymers Lab at the University of Toronto are currently working on the new rubber that ultimately allows users to dig their shoes into the ice. Since they are embedded with thousands of micro fibers of glass, the soles feel somewhat like sandpaper.
Furthermore, this new rubbery substance can be worked just like normal rubber, which means it can be molded into a variety of shapes and styles fitted for boots or shoes. It has also been shown to be just as reliable and wearable as regular rubber.
The manufacturers explained that in making the new material, they first have to extrude the tiny glass fibers into the rubbery slab, which run parallel with the rubber’s surface. Then, the slab of rubber is cut so that the glass fibers protrude out and act somewhat like tiny little pins to dig into the ice and give traction to the shoes. The materials are not pricy, but the process of making it is not easy and manufacturers are looking for ways to make in cheaper and easier to mass produce.