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Beetle-inspired switch uses water for bonding

late surface using electricity from electrodes. The electricity moves positively charged atoms, called ions, in the water through the minute capillaries of a thin disk of porous glass embedded in the plate. The water moves and wells up into a micrometer-sized droplet on the plate surface. The exposed droplet can then stick to another surface. To break the bond, electricity pulls the exposed water back through the capillary pores.

With millimeter-sized water droplets and micron-sized pores, 5 volts can turn the switch on in one second. At the same time, the researchers predict that smaller droplets will require less energy to move and have faster switching times. Steen and his colleagues believe that a switch as small as hundreds of nanometers, close to a billionth of a meter and one-tenth the size of the beetle droplets, is within reach. Researchers could also create large effects from many tiny switches by connecting them in various arrangements, Steen said.

"This new technology bridges the gap between scales as large as our hands and nanoscales," said Steen. "We need devices that allow us to communicate between the two scales."

Co-authors include Michael Vogel, a postdoctoral researcher in Cornell's Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and researcher Peter Ehrhard at the Institute for Nuclear and Energy Technologies in Karlsruhe, Germany. Since much of this work was conducted while the three scientists were at the German institute, the patent application was filed in Germany.
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Source:Cornell University News Service


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