Smart hydrogel uses light to change shape and color
Rutgers University engineers have developed a 3D printable hydrogel, or smart gel, that senses light and changes shape as a result. The engineers incorporated a light-sensing nanomaterial in the hydrogel, turning it into an “artificial muscle” that contracts in response to changes in light. The light-sensing smart gel, combined with the 3D-printed stretchy material, changes color, resulting in a camouflage effect.
Credit: National Science Foundation/Karson Productions
Hidden in plain sight.
I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from NSF -- the U.S. National Science Foundation.
(Sound effect: undersea sounds) Nature has provided octopi, squid and cuttlefish with some mind-blowing camo gear. The ability to change the color and texture of their skin to blend in with the surroundings. Now engineers at Rutgers have successfully re-created these abilities in a 3d-printed smart gel that changes shape when exposed to light and reveals colors when light changes.
The sea creatures do it with color-changing cells in their skin called Chromataphores. To copy those, the engineers start with a hydrogel. Think, Jell-O or soft contacts -- hydrogels keep their shape and stay solid and flexible despite being filled with water.
This hydrogel is infused with a light-sensing nanomaterial, turning it into an artificial muscle that expands and contracts in response to light. That expands the stretchy material to reveal color for a camouflage effect.
Military camouflage and soft robotics could benefit from this. Electronic displays are another possible application because new materials allow for a more complete interface with existing surfaces.
(Sound effect: ratchet sound) The team is fine-tuning for sensitivity, response time, scalability, durability and packaging. A color-changing artificial muscle. (Sound effect: undersea sounds) Inspired by some elusive denizens of the deep.
Now, where's my octopus? He was just here.
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