Shapeshifting Materials Transform By Light

Here's a clever shapeshifting material.


A group of chemical and biological engineers there have fabricated a plastic that can transform repeatedly from one complex, predefined shape to another, based on changes in temperature or exposure to certain wavelengths of light. The material is made from the same liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs) that are common to many of today’s flatscreen video displays. The research was published this month in the journal Science Advances.

It’s sort of a futuristic expansion on the tech behind those novelty drinking straws or kids’ winter gloves that change color in the heat — except in that it actually has some utility.

Matthew McBride, a post-doctoral researcher at CU Boulder and the study’s lead author tells Inverse says the shapeshifting material claims a multitude of uses.

Philip K. Dick fans no doubt are thinking of the shape-shifting machine (the "M") from his 1957 short story The Unreconstructed M. This enigmatic machine can transform itself at will into apparently innocent objects - but it's only waiting to strike.

Beam, holding the cigaret lighter, walked toward the M. A receptor stalk waved toward him and the machine retreated. Its lines wavered, flowed, and then painfully reformed. For an interval, the device struggled with itself; then, reluctantly, the portable t-v unit again became visible.

See also the Tensile Memory Polarized Matter from Samuel R. Delany's 1960's masterpiece Babel-17

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