Scientists use electricity to turn gelatinous gels into tiny machines

Orlin Velev/NC State University

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In this slightly crazy cool video, researchers from North Carolina State University electrify soft hydrogels with a small charge to turn them into tiny rigid electronic devices. The incredibly cool science you’re witnessing here uses a process called ionoprinting in which scientists embed copper ions into a gel that stiffens sections of the material when it gets zapped with a small electrical charge.

In addition to its reaction to electricity, hydrogels have another unique trait in that they're one of the few solids that can be introduced into the human body without being flat-out rejected.

"In the nearer term, the technique may have applications for drug delivery or tissue scaffolding and directing cell growth in three dimensions, for example," N.C. State professor Dr. Orlin Velev explains in a release. "We are currently planning to use this technique to develop motile, biologically compatible micro-devices."

As for the longer-term implications, nobody knows. Me? I'm holding out for the coming cyborg age.

[NC State University via Gizmodo]

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