Scientists have created soft synthetic matter: it can move without human help

American scientists have developed “robotic” soft matter that starts to move, crawl and spin when light hits it. Information about new matter is published in Nature Materials.

Researchers at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, have created a family of soft synthetic materials. If sunlight falls on them, they seem to come to life: they begin to move, bend and even crawl along the surface without the help of any additional equipment.

New matter consists of nanoscale peptide assemblies that divert water molecules. In order to create the material, scientists linked peptide matrices with polymer networks that respond to blue light. It is this property that explains the reaction of matter to light. When light enters a substance, a chemical reaction changes the properties of the nets: they become hydrophobic, that is, water-repellent, from hydrophilic, attracting moisture. Therefore, during exposure to light, it begins to shrink, as it were, displacing moisture. If you control the light, then the material can be made to move in a certain way.

According to the researchers, such robotic material can perform many different tasks: to help during medical operations, or in energy production, as well as restore the environment. The authors are confident that due to the ability to take any form, the material can be useful in any field.