Engineers at Rutgers University have invented, what they call, an artificial muscle that changes shape when exposed to light. In conjunction, they developed a 3D-printed stretchy material that can reveal colors when light changes. This new smart gel was inspired by color-changing fish, like octopuses, cuttlefish and squid who have the amazing ability to not only change color but also their texture and shape. The light-sensing smart gel, combined with the 3D-printed stretchy material, changes color, resulting in a camouflage effect. The hope is to eventually use these gels with other soft materials to create flexible, colorful displays. These materials can then be used by the military and soft robotics.

Advances in electronic displays are continuing to be developed, they are larger, brighter and thinner but still, they are made of rigid materials. The 3D-printerd hydrogel changes shape or contracts once light has been detected, making them flexible colorful displays. A polymer hydrogel is a cross-linked network of flexible polymer chains that contain a large amount of water but retains the properties of solids. Hydrogels do not dissolve in water and are highly absorbent. They are not new, other examples of products that use Hydrogels are diapers, drug delivery systems and gel dressings for wounds, to name a few.

The engineers are now working at improving the smart gels sensitivity, response time and sensitivity. The Polymers Technology Center assists companies in the development of new materials and processes. With our partnership with the Polymers Center, our customers have access to engineering and testing capabilities to help them with all aspects of the development process. Contact us for more information.