A new kind of material that is capable of adapting to rapid changes in environment was recently seen imitating the stability, mechanical prowess, and strength of a marine worm’s jaw. The protein material, it was designed and formulated by a team of researchers that is working at the Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics (LAMM) which is a facility in the MIT’s Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) department. It was developed after a close observation of jaw of a sand worm called Neries virens that is capable of adapting with change in environment.
The resulting material is ion-sensitive and pH- sensitive and is able to react to change in environment. If you can understand the nature of this naturally occurring procedure can be very helpful for better control of deformation or movement of actuators for sensors and soft robotics with the help of external power supply or complicated electronic controlling device. Markus J. Buehler, the head of CEE and a senior author of this paper, explains, “The ability of dramatically altering the material properties, by changing its hierarchical structure starting at the chemical level, offers exciting new opportunities to tune the material, and to build upon the natural material design towards new engineering applications.”
The research was published recently where they demonstrated that relying on pH and ions levels in the surroundings, the protein material can expand and contract into various geometric patterns. As and when the condition changes again the material gets back to its initial shape. This especially makes it very useful with respect to smart composite materials with self-powered robotics and tunable mechanics that make use of pH value and ion conditions for changing stiffness of the material or in production of functional deformations.
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