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New Plastic Material Begins to Oscillate Spontaneously in Sunlight

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Scientists Discover New Plastic That Oscillate Under Sunlight

Materials that move under light have been known to mankind for years. But this light had to be ultraviolet light for the desired effect to take place. In a path-breaking research, scientists from Eindhoven and Berlin have developed a new plastic substance that freely oscillates when kept directly under the rays of the sun. This is a brilliant new development as intense ultraviolet rays could damage the material itself. Now, the same behavior is being exhibited under visible, unfiltered daylight.

Description of the Plastic Material

Researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology and Humboldt University in Germany have presented this discovery in a journal titled ‘Nature Communications’. They developed new plastic which is made of a polymer layer containing photo-sensitive molecules, also known as ‘azo-dyes’. When placed under sunlight, the thin film starts to spontaneously and irregularly move by itself. The pliable new plastic thus has a self-cleaning surface and can be used to develop a variety of things like solar cells, for example.

Reasons for this Mysterious Behavior

Scientists have not been able to completely explain the cause behind this behavior of the new plastic yet. Michael Debije suggests that it could be because of a combination of factors. The light sensitive molecules of the new plastic display a tendency to bend, stretch and shift their positions when kept under the influence of direct unprocessed daylight. Now, these molecules are bound together like a series within a larger polymer network of crystals.

Once the photo-sensitivity of the cells are activated under visible light, they exhibit behavior similar to getting cramped. This results in the oscillating movement as displayed by the plastic strip. Because of this, the final result is one of a self-oscillating strip of polymer actuator which when driven by sunlight displays chaotic behavior. The researchers have concluded that there is a lot more to this tiny discovery which can only be known through further research.

 

Benefits from this New Find

This discovery could be revolutionary as a self-cleaning material. The oscillating polymer can be used as a self-cleaning surface. According to researcher Debije, surfaces that are constantly moving by itself will also keep itself clean. It would be very difficult for sand, dust and other environmental agents to get stuck to a constantly vibrating surface. Therefore, this new plastic can be used to build self cleaning solar panels in inaccessible areas like deserts where both water supply and human intervention is scarce as well as inconvenient.

This idea has been put forward by fellow researcher Dick Broer. But this is only the tip of an iceberg. Scientists believe that this principle can be applied to a whole range of different things. Debije believes that this is just the beginning and there could be a bright future lying ahead of the self oscillating plastic. A lot more research is necessary to know the unknown and the researchers hope to attract the attention of many more fellow researchers from all across the globe.

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