lunes, 16 de diciembre de 2013

New Morphing Materials May be Future for Bioengineering (Video)

Morphing materials, which are materials that can change their shape based on environmental conditions, may just be the future for bioengineering. Now, researchers have developed a new composite material that can change its shape when heated and then changes back when cooled. (Photo : Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)
Morphing materials, which are materials that can change their shape based on environmental conditions, may just be the future for bioengineering. Now, researchers have developed a new composite material that can change its shape when heated and then changes back when cooled. The new material could be useful for a variety of applications in the future.

"We already know the materials are biocompatible, stable and inert," said Rafael Verduzco, one of the researchers, in a news release. "So they have great potential for biological applications."

How exactly does this morphing material work? 
It needs two layers in order to function.
  • One is a liquid crystal elastomer (LCE), which is a rubber-like material of cross-linked polymers that line up along a single axis, called the "nematic director." 
  • The other is a thin layer of simple polystyrene, placed either above or below the LCE.
The layers themselves react to heat in a predictable and repeatable way. This allows researchers to design configurations into the materials depending on a number of parameters:

  • the shape and aspect ratio of the LCE, 
  • the thickness and patterning of the polystyrene and 
  • the temperature at which the polystyrene is applied.
What does this mean, exactly?
The scientists were able to make materials that could change shape when exposed to heat before changing back again. More specifically, they created spiraling, curling and X-shaped materials that alternately closed or stood up on four legs. This is particularly useful for biomedical applications.

"For any application, you want to be able to change shape and then go back," said Verduzco in a news release. "LCEs are reversible, unlike shape-memory polymers that change shape only once and cannot go back to their initial shape. This is important for biomedical applications, such as dynamic substrates for cell cultures or implantable materials that contract and expand in response to stimulus. This is what we are targeting with these applications."

The findings are published in the journal Soft Matter.

Want to see the material for yourself? Check out the video below

Dec 11, 2013

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