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Materials & Assembly
Slippery Material System Can Start, Stop Liquids
4/17/2013

Top, a schematic shows the design of the liquid-infused dynamic material. The bottom two photographs show the dry and lubricated elastic substrates.   (Source: Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering)
Top, a schematic shows the design of the liquid-infused dynamic material. The bottom two photographs show the dry and lubricated elastic substrates.
(Source: Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering)

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far911
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Stop-Go
far911   4/17/2013 4:53:24 AM
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This is fascinating stuff and is sure to bring countless number of uses. Having an open-air event and being able to control the air flow is quite handy. A good air flow when its sunny and a resistive material when its raining, and being able to do this any time at will is just magical. 

Elizabeth M
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Elizabeth M   4/17/2013 11:09:21 AM
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Fascinating stuff, Ann. Some of the science of this goes a bit over my head, but it's always interesting to read about the latest advancements in materials and how they are composed.

Ann R. Thryft
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Ann R. Thryft   4/17/2013 12:56:47 PM
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Elizabeth, I didn't really get the immediate wow factor of continuous tunability until I saw the start-stop action on the video of a drop rolling down--and then stopping on--a vertical surface.

Elizabeth M
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Elizabeth M   4/18/2013 8:52:37 AM
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Yes, this is definitely something that it's probably better to watch it in action to understand its impact. My Internet was wobbly yesterday when I tried to view the video. I'll give it a go again today and I'm sure I also will be impressed!

Scott Orlosky
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Scott Orlosky   4/27/2013 6:48:12 PM
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This stuff seems quite strange to me.  It almost looks like an organic material like a "skin" of some sort.  I expect the real challenge will be to mechanically manipulate large, industrial-size bits of the material to get the desired effect.  I found myself wondering if there are any systems in nature that emulate this effect?

Ann R. Thryft
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Ann R. Thryft   4/30/2013 12:06:49 PM
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Scott, that's an interesting question. The biological inspiration for this material system was human tears on the surface of the eye. As the press release says, "The new material was inspired by dynamic, self-restoring systems in Nature, such as the liquid film that coats your eyes. Individual tears join up to form a dynamic liquid film with an obviously significant optical function that maintains clarity, while keeping the eye moist, protecting it against dust and bacteria, and helping to transport away any wastes..." http://wyss.harvard.edu/viewpressrelease/109/

Scott Orlosky
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Scott Orlosky   4/30/2013 10:50:25 PM
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Hmm.  Seems like a bit of a stretch to me.  The eyelid is a mechanical liquid dispersal system, it's not changing the physical surface of the eyeball in order to change the flow of liquid. Still, it's a unique bit of research and sometimes these find valuable uses down the line.

Ann R. Thryft
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Ann R. Thryft   5/1/2013 12:28:52 PM
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I thought it was a stretch, too, and for the same reasons--not really an analogy--which is why I didn't include that info in the article.

Cabe Atwell
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Cabe Atwell   6/27/2013 11:16:09 PM
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It would seem the material could be adapted for use in shoes as a better means of traction when traversing on inclines. More pressure on the down step could potentially stretch the material giving it better grip.

C

Ann R. Thryft
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Ann R. Thryft   6/28/2013 11:46:40 AM
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Cabe, that's another clever observation: sounds like an intriguing application for this material, assuming it has enough adhesion to take all that weight (instead of just the weight of the liquid). If it does, hiking boots would be a good app. I've scrambled down too many scree-filled hillsides, managing to not fall over by walking like a crab and using a stick. Better gripping shoes would have helped.

Ann R. Thryft
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Ann R. Thryft   4/17/2013 12:54:29 PM
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Thanks, far911. What's even more amazing to me is that the system is adaptable to different materials for different purposes and to different stimuli for creating those changes.

far911
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far911   4/17/2013 3:56:18 PM
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@Ann - Precisely. It's as if the system evolves through self-learning. Adaptability is the key word here, and this new material system masters it.

Ann R. Thryft
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Ann R. Thryft   4/18/2013 11:45:18 AM
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Well not exactly, far911. There's no self-learning here. The adaptability is not inherent in the system itself, once designed and created, but in the material's design. Engineers can use different materials that respond to different stimuli for different effects, as the article states.

far911
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far911   4/22/2013 1:40:40 AM
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@Ann - In that case, it'd be something evolutionary to have. Still, the limitation can hardly be blamed, if at all. 

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