Pitt research team demonstrates gels that can be moved, controlled by light
Some animals—like the octopus and cuttlefish—transform their shape based on environment, fending off attackers or threats in the wild. For decades, researchers have worked toward mimicking similar biological responses in non-living organisms, as it would have significant implications in the medical arena.
Now, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have demonstrated such a biomimetic response using hydrogels—a material that constitutes most contact lenses and microfluidic or fluid-controlled technologies. Their study, published in Advanced Functional Materials, is the first to show that these gels can be both reconfigured and controlled by light, undergoing self-sustained motion—a uniquely biomimetic behavior.
“Imagine an apartment with a particular arrangement of rooms all in one location,” said lead author Anna Balazs, Pitt Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering. “Now, consider the possibility of being able to shine a particular configuration of lights on this structure and thereby completely changing not only the entire layout, but also the location of the apartment. This is what we’ve demonstrated with hydrogels.”
Together with Olga Kuksenok, research associate professor in the Swanson School, Balazs experimented with a newer type of hydrogel containing spirobenzopyran molecules. Such materials had been previously shown to form distinct 2-D patterns on initially flat surfaces when introduced to varying displays of light and are hydrophilic (“liking” water) in the dark but become hydrophobic (“disliking” water) under blue light illumination. Therefore, Balazs and Kuksenok anticipated that light could be a useful stimulus for tailoring the gel’s shape.
Using computer modeling, the Pitt team demonstrated that the gels “ran away” when exposed to the light, exhibiting direct, sustained motion. The team also factored in heat—combining the light and local variations in temperature to further control the samples’ motions. Controlling a material with light and temperature could be applicable, Balazs said, in terms of regulating the movement of a microscopic “conveyor belt” or “elevator” in a microfluidic device.
“This theoretical modeling points toward a new way of configuring the gels into any shape, while simultaneously driving the gels to move due to the presence of light,” said Kuksenok.
“Consider, for example, that you could take one sheet of hydrogel and, with the appropriate use of light, fashion it into a lens-shaped object, which could be used in optical applications”, added Balazs.
The team also demonstrated that the gels could undergo dynamic reconfiguration, meaning that, with a different combination of lights, the gel could be used for another purpose. Reconfigurable systems are particularly useful because they are reusable, leading to a significant reduction in cost.
“You don’t need to construct a new device for every new application,” said Balazs. “By swiping light over the system in different directions, you can further control the movements of a system, further regulating the flow of materials.”
Balazs said this type of dynamic reconfiguration in response to external cues is particularly advantageous in the realm of functional materials. Such processes, she said, would have a dramatic effect on manufacturing and sustainability, since the same sample could be used and reused for multiple applications.
The Latest on: Biomimetic response
- Tiny, Motorized Pill Delivers Vaccine to Mouse Intestine on February 15, 2019 at 1:46 pm
“Biomimetic micromotor enables active delivery of antigens ... “Yet, there are almost no vaccines that we have on the market that actually try to induce this kind of response. It just tells you how pr... […]
- Researchers improve robots’ speech recognition by modeling human auditory processing on February 15, 2019 at 7:35 am
Inspired by this neurophysiology, a team of researchers devised in a preprint paper on Arxiv.org (“Enhanced Robot Speech Recognition Using Biomimetic ... nerve impulses in response to sound ... […]
- Self-Propelling Micromotors Deliver Oral Vaccines on February 11, 2019 at 1:44 am
In addition to avoiding needles, oral vaccines can generate a broader immune response by stimulating immune cells within ... opening the door for a new set of applications, in which biomimetic motor t... […]
- The Barrow Biomimetic Spine on November 30, 2018 at 4:00 pm
The Barrow Biomimetic Spine project aims to develop a 3-dimensional ... not only in respect to their anatomical appearance in standard views but also in their response to surgical manipulation and the ... […]
- Military by nature: biomimetic inspiration for future armies on November 7, 2018 at 5:04 am
The US military even reckon the biomimetic material could help clean up toxic spills ... the hope is to get them to specifically sense and then trigger discreet response mechanisms when a relevant sti... […]
- EUPOC 2018. Biomimetic Polymers by Rational Design, Imprinting and Conjugation on May 23, 2018 at 5:00 pm
EUPOC 2018 aims to provide an ideal forum for researchers to exchange and share innovative ideas on biomimetic polymers with rationally designed molecular recognition and response properties. The conf... […]
- Geometric distances between immune cells key to anticancer response: study on April 30, 2018 at 3:37 pm
The biomimetic surface invented by Wind's team presented T-cell ... mattered in triggering the immune response. According to the study, if the T-cell and the APC are very close together, then CD45, wh... […]
- Cheetah III robot preps for a role as a first responder on March 27, 2018 at 5:13 am
The Biomimetic Robotics Lab is also finishing up a smaller ... Kim and his team studied the requirements for an emergency response robot and worked backward. "We believe the Cheetah III will be able t... […]
- 3D printed robot hands could gain sense of touch with biomimetic forebrains on March 21, 2017 at 5:00 pm
A team of researchers from the University of Bristol in the UK is working on the development of a biomimetic forebrain that can be ... they will need a sense of touch, so to speak. The response of tou... […]
- Novel 3D printing technique uses magnets to create smart materials for soft robotics and medicine on February 28, 2017 at 10:49 am
These phenomena include smart materials with, “tunable elastic properties, giant deformational effects, high elasticity, anisotropic elastic and swelling properties, and quick response to magnetic ... ... […]
via Google News and Bing News