(ORDO NEWS) — What will happen if we combine the property of iron to navigate in a magnetic field and the property of certain types of plastic to harden and melt at different temperatures?
This will result in a new composite material that can be controlled with high precision using heat and a magnet.
Scientists have been working for many years to create “smart” materials that can be controlled from a distance.
So far, optical or magnetic methods have been used to remotely control matter, but both have severe limitations: the former in terms of strength, the latter in terms of the accuracy of shape change.
To get around this limitation, chemists at the Navarre People’s University (Spain) mixed polycaprolactone with iron powder to create a new composite material.
Polycaprolactone is a thermoplastic material that melts at 60 degrees Celsius, and iron is well known for its magnetic properties.
The combination turned out to be extremely successful: by exposing the material to heat and magnetic fields, scientists achieved an unprecedented degree of control.
Directly heating the right places with a laser, the researchers softened the thermoplastic, and then attracted the iron particles contained in it, giving the entire material the desired shape.
In total, several experiments were carried out: for example, letters and words were bent from a straight thread, and tubercles appeared on a flat bar, resembling Braille.
In general, the material could be freely moved, rotated, bent, stretched, compressed, separated, fused, lifted, melted, molded into various shapes. It retained its properties even when placed in an optically opaque container.
In the future, this material can be used to develop biomedical devices, tactile displays and manipulators.
It retains properties when placed in water, underground, or even inside the human body. However, researchers need more testing to prove the safety and reliability of the technology.
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