The Walking Polymer, a Material Engineering Breakthrough

24 September 2017

A team of scientists from the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands and Kent State University in Ohio has developed a new type of polymer that undulates and actually moves when impinged with light.

In an article recently published in the scientific journal Nature, the team, led by professor Dick Broer of the Eindhoven University of Technology, describes the development of the material that can be used to transport small items to hard-to-reach places. When one side of the material is hit by light it contracts, and the other expands, causing it to deform which produces the movement. As soon as the light is removed the undulations stop.

The new polymer is made of liquid crystals with the addition of a fast responding light-sensitive type in a crystalline polymer network. The design of the material is such that when it is illuminated it undergoes an instantaneous deformation and an instantaneous relaxation when the light disappears. To test it, a strip of the material was attached to a frame shorter than the strip. Then researchers illuminated the frame with a strong LED light. The result is shown in the video included in this article.

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