Oct 032010
 

(Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation)

University of Southern Mississippi scientists recently imitated Mother Nature by developing, for the first time, a new, skinny-molecule-based material that resembles cilia, the tiny, hair-like structures through which organisms derive smell, vision, hearing and fluid flow.

While the new material isn’t exactly like cilia, it responds to thermal, chemical, and electromagnetic stimulation, allowing researchers to control it and opening unlimited possibilities for future use.

This finding is published in the September 23 edition of the journalAdvanced Functional Materials. The National Science Foundation’s Division of Materials Research supports Southern Miss’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center for Response-Driven Polymeric Materials, where the research took place.

Cilia are wavy, hair-like structures that extend outward from the surfaces of various organisms such as human skin. People, animals and single-celled organisms use them to sense the environment, gather information about it and adapt to it.

Scientists long imagined what could be done if they could engineer cilia for other organic and nonorganic uses. But creating them solely belonged to the life nurturing processes of nature, until now. Marek Urban, Southern Miss professor of polymer science and engineering, along with a team of researchers, developed a new thin copolymer film with whisker-like formations that mimics Mother Nature.

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