Scientists discovered unbreakable molecular switch useful for artificial muscles and LOCs
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Scientists discovered unbreakable molecular switch useful for artificial muscles and LOCs


An organic material that can repeatedly change
shape without breaking would have many useful applications, such as artificial muscles,
pumps or as a switch. Physicists at Radboud University accidentally
discovered a material with that property. They call it as the “molecular pinball machine”. And, they demonstrate the shape-changing abilities
of the material by having it fling a glass bead at high speed. In that process, the organic crystal material
called 4-DBpFO delivers a force corresponding to ten thousand times its own weight. The crystals have the unique property of significantly
changing shape at small temperature variations around 180 degrees Celsius and doing so without
breaking, which allows for that change to be repeated hundreds of times. The scientific world has a large need for
minute moving machines made of organic material, which can be used as fluid pumps on “labs
on a chip” (LOCs). Well-known uses of LOCs include the device
that allows diabetics to measure their blood sugar and nano pills that measure bodily functions. The problem with current organic crystals
is that such changes in shape due to temperature quickly break the material. The material that the researchers found does
not break upon repeated change of shape, because the molecules slide across each other. The researchers were saying that the discovery
of these properties in this material was actually a stroke of luck. Actually they were mainly studying these materials
for their interesting optical properties, but when they changed the temperature under
the microscope, the crystal suddenly shot away. To be able to take further steps toward possible
applications, the researchers want to study how the effect could be shifted to lower temperatures
through changes in the molecular structure. They also want to investigate how they could
make the material change shape by using short light pulses, so the material can be heated
and cooled in a controlled manner.

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