Heat-controlled materials could serve as skeleton for shape-shifting robots
Courtesy of N. Cheng et al
Future robots may sport a wax coating that allows them to transform from soft and squishy to stiff and strong.
Dipping foam or plastic in molten wax creates structures whose flexibility and strength can be tuned with temperature, researchers report June 30 in Macromolecular Materials and Engineering. The study introduces a novel class of inexpensive materials that can be both floppy and firm, says mechanical engineer Robert Shepherd of Cornell University.
Researchers could one day use the materials to build remote-controlled surgical or search-and-rescue robots that can squeeze through tight spaces when heated and firmly push obstacles aside when cooled.
Engineers have previously created shape-shifting materials, such as balloons filled with sand and liquids loaded with iron (