Nature’s actuators employ controlled deformations of individual molecules to perform actuation. Our objective is to create a new class of actuators that, like muscle, harness molecular deformations to generate meso- and macroscopic force and displacement. Advances in synthetic organic chemistry enable the creation and manipulation of molecules that mimic natural mechanisms. We are designing, in collaboration with Tim Swager
in the department of Chemistry at MIT, conducting polymers which undergo large conformation changes in response to electrically or chemically induced changes in oxidation state. The creation of a muscle-like actuator will enable advances in autonomous robotics, artificial organs and micro/nanosystem fabrication.
Conducting polymers offer a diversity and range of material properties matched only in protein-based life. They can be employed to fabricate chemical, mechanical and optical sensors, actuators, LEDs, transistors, batteries, super-capacitors, structural elements and fibers. From these components it is possible to construct entire devices using just one class of materials, as well as just one fabrication process.
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