Smart plastic material a step towards soft, flexible robotics
Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin were inspired by the properties of living organisms, from trees to shellfish. They set out to develop a plastic that is hard and rigid at times and flexible and pliable at other times. The researchers’ success, a first in using light and a catalyser to change properties like hardness and flexibility in molecules of the exact same type has led to a new material which is 10 times more durable than natural rubber. It could also lead to more flexible robotics and electronics.
Today, the findings were published in Science.
Zachariah page, assistant professor in chemistry and co-author of the paper, said that this is the first of its kind. The ability to control the crystallization and, therefore, the physical properties, of the material with the application light could be transformative for wearable electronic or actuators in the soft robotics.