New Worm-Inspired Gel Material Naturally Adapts To Changing Environments

Posted: Mar 20 2017, 6:13am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 

New Worm-Inspired Gel Material Naturally Adapts to Changing Environments
The Nereis virens worm inspired new research out of the MIT Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics. Its jaw is made of soft organic material, but is as strong as harder materials such as human dentin. Photo Credit: Alexander Semenov
  • Material based on Worm reacts in Accordance to Environmental Stimuli
 

A material made by scientists which is based on a worm found in Nature reacts in accordance to environmental stimuli. MIT researchers develop this new bio-inspired gel material that could help engineers control movements of soft robots.

A novel material that shows great versatility and strength not to mention flexibility was apparently inspired by a worm that is found in Nature. This marine worm’s jaws are tough. The prototype of the material was made in the lab by scientists after studying the worm. It is a protein-like material.

It widens and shrinks based on variations in pH levels. Termed the Nereis virens, the worm is often hidden in the sand. It is highly adapted to surviving in any environment.   

The pH variability and ion concentration cause the material to expand and contract. This has many uses in a number of fields.

“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,” wrote Markus J. Buehler, the McAfee Professor of Engineering, head of CEE, and senior author of the paper that was recently published in ACS Nano.

Soft robotics may really get a booster shot in the arm thanks to this material. The actuators and sensing devices used in this field of endeavor will easily be made using the new material.

Furthermore, this may be accomplished without any batteries or remote control devices. The chemical structure of the material can also be played around with and the fine-tuning of this stuff may lead to novel branches of robotics.  

The tough and powerful jaw of the worm was what inspired this material. How the worm behaves in different environments is also the way this material can react in different settings.

Various experiments were conducted to learn more about the worm in order to inspire changes in the material. The worm’s jaw is made of a soft material within which a much tougher and solid material is imbedded.

The latter resembles human dentin in its nature. Certain chemical components of the jaw make it so resistant and hard. The contraction and expansion of the material resemble how the worm acts in response to pH levels and ion concentration.

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