Engineers from the University of Colorado Boulder developed a new shape-shifting material that can morph and then reverse to its original form using heat and light stimuli. The results of this study and the element were presented yesterday, August 24th, in the journal Science Advances.
“The ability to form materials that can repeatedly oscillate back and forth between two independent shapes by exposing them to light will open up a wide range of new applications and approaches to areas such as additive manufacturing, robotics, and biomaterials,” explained Christopher Bowman, Distinguished Professor in Univesity of Colorado Boulder’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and the senior author of the study.
By using liquid crystal elastomer (LCE) networks, which is the same technology employed in modern television displays, the researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder managed to create the new shape-shifting material that is able of two-way transformations on a macroscopic level.
The new shape-shifting material can morph an return to its initial form using heat and light
To achieve what we can witness in the video above, the scientists, led by Professor Christopher Bowman, implemented a light-activated switch into the liquid crystal elastomer (LCE) networks which can form a pre-set molecular alignment when specific wavelengths of light stimulate the object. Then, the whole structure remains in “stand-by” until exposed again to the corresponding heat stimuli.
This shape-shifting material’s ability to transform and the to come back to its original form could make this object be the first step towards improved biomedical devices which would become more flexible than ever.
“We view this as an elegant foundational system for transforming an object’s properties. We plan to continue optimizing and exploring the possibilities of this technology,” explained Matthew McBride, the new study’s leading author and post-doctoral scientists at the Univesity of Colorado Boulder’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.