Center for Mechanics of Solids, Structures and Materials

Seminar Schedule - Spring 2017

Home > Seminars > 2017.02.28

Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Time: 3:30-5:00 PM
Place: WRW 102

Plant nanobionic materials for thermally active, structural woods and soft, artificial skins

Chiara Daraio, California Institute of Technology

Bionic materials are a class of materials that aims to preserve, enhance, and exploit properties of living systems for engineering purposes. The fabrication of such materials, which bridge the living and inanimate world, has been a longstanding challenge for material scientists, chemists and mechanicians. Attempts have focused on reverse engineering biological structures, biomimicking, and bioinspiration. In most cases, however, creating synthetic materials that reproduce or surpass the performance of natural materials has been elusive. We fabricate synthetic materials that combine carbon nanoparticles in a matrix of plant cells. These materials have mechanical and structural properties resembling wood. Unlike wood, however, they are exquisitely thermally active: they are electrically conducting, and their conductivity changes with temperature, with sensitivity that is two orders of magnitude greater than other materials. In extensions of this work, we extract the active molecule responsible for the temperature sensitivity in plants, and create soft, transparent hydrogels. We use these gels to form ultra-sensitive, flexible membranes that can detect temperature changes from a distance. These new bionic hydrogels augment properties of synthetic skins for robotics and prosthesis, and can find applications in consumer electronics.

For further information please contact Dr. Stelios Kyriakides at Stelios or (512) 471-4167.

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