"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 team will now study the effect of embedding microscopic fibers into the gel to further control the shape and response of the material to other stimuli.
|Contact: B. Rose Huber|
University of Pittsburgh