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Plastic That Can Instantly Change Its Surface Texture

Engineers create a polymer material that can change patterns in a split a second.

Yi Chen
Yi Chen on March 19, 2012. @yiiee


Xuanhe Zhao, an assistant professor at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, has come up with a new plastic material that can morph its surface texture in less than a second. The texture pattern can be transformed from dots and circles, to segments and lines. What this essentially means is that if you have a smartphone cover made from this material, you can alter the surface to become more coarse for a better grip, or more smooth so it can sit evenly on a glass table.

Qiming Wang, a student on Zhao’s research team, explains that the polymer surface can be switched within milliseconds, and the “pattern sizes can be tuned from millimeter to sub-micrometer.”

Zhao further adds that the innovative technology can also produce useful gloves that can be tuned on-demand for various applications, such as climbing and gripping. Improvements in the future might be able to dramatically change the surface patterns to produce microfludics and camouflage materials.

Watch the video below for an explanation of the texture-changing polymer material:

Duke University

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