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Picture of the Day

Scientists develop new materials that move in response to light

Researchers have developed magnetic elastomeric composites that move in different ways when exposed to light, raising the possibility that these materials could enable a wide range of products that perform simple to complex movements, from tiny engines and valves to solar arrays that bend toward the sunlight. In biology, there are many examples where light induces movement or change -- think of flowers and leaves turning toward sunlight. The light actuated materials created in this study are based on the principle of the Curie temperature -- the temperature above which certain materials will change their magnetic properties. By heating and cooling a magnetic material, one can turn its magnetism off and on. Biopolymers and elastomers doped with ferromagnetic CrO2 will heat up when exposed to laser or sunlight, temporarily losing their magnetic properties until they cool down again. The basic movements of the material, shaped into films, sponge, and hydrogels, are induced by nearby permanent or electromagnets and can exhibit as bending, twisting and expansion.

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