There is no shortage of surprises when it comes to nanomaterials, but this new composite is behaving in a whole new way: it wiggles when you turn on the lights.
Scientists from the University of Twene's MESA+ shared a report on their new nanoswitch embedded material in this week's Nature Chemistry . Light-activated microscopic nanomachines are not a novel technology, you might remember these one molecular "nanocars", but the MESA+ researcher's report marks the first time scientists have manipulated molecular rearrangement in such a way that it could produce a macroscopic movement visible to the naked eye.
The molecular nanoswitches hiding inside of the these spiral ribbons are made up of liquid-crystalline polymer springs. When the liquid-crystalline polymer is exposed to certain frequency UV lights, it causes the spring to perform all sorts of nifty contortions. The team was able to program their spiral ribbons to expand, contract, or even do both.
The MESA+ team cites plan-vine curling as their inspiration for the material's movement: the spirals do move similarly to plant vines climbing a wall. These nanosensor embedded materials should find their way into soft robotics and microfluidic devices in the future. [Nature Chemistry]