Texture Changing Polymers Developed
From smooth to rough to patterned, polymers can have a variety of textures, but previously this was only done by molding or etching the plastic, and once done the texture cannot be changed. Not content with this static characteristic, researchers at Duke University have developed a technique to dynamically change surface of a polymer to specific patterns, just be applying different voltages.
To start, the researchers looked at how polymers used to insulate wires degrade over time. By increasing the voltage running through the wire, the researchers were able to observe creases forming in the polymer, which eventually turned into craters. This effect is what the researchers have taken advantage of, so as the voltage on their polymer increases, the creases form the patterns the programmed into it, via lithography.
Though the technology is not there quite yet, a potential use for this the researchers speculate on is rubber gloves with changeable fingerprints. The patterns they can make in the polymer include straight lines, curves, and circles which are the building blocks of fingerprints. Other uses include making surfaces change for camouflage or microfluidic effects, as well as self-cleaning systems.