AUSTIN, Texas — UT researchers are one step closer towards flexible robotics and electronics after creating a new material called 'smart plastic.'
"So, if you want your phone to bend or if you want to put a sticker on you that can read different medical information, that needs to move with your body and bend and stretch," said UT graduate student Adrian Rylski. Rylski led the smart plastic project in the study.
Dr. Zachariah Page, Chemistry Assistant Professor at UT, who mentored the handful of researchers, points out the 'smart plastic' could also be used to make softer robots that can bend and stretch if needed.
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"We have a material that has certain types of stiffnesses so overall it feels fairly soft and because we can control how it's stretching under different applied distresses; we can be able to deform it in a very specific way. So, you can use that for essentially mimicking motion from a robotic standpoint," Dr. Page said.
So, what makes this smart plastic different?
"Normally with plastics, we normally have something that's hard or we have something that's soft. This is where we can really create something that has both of those together and we can spatially locate where the hard and soft domains are going to be," Dr. Page said.
The hard work isn't over yet, Rylski said this is still preliminary work and there's more to be done before we can see the smart plastic being using to make cell phones.
"This took about four years to complete this project and if we're talking about commercialization that's probably going to be probably ten years down the future at the very earliest," Rylski said.