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Gizmorama - March 28, 2016

Good Morning,

Tired of laundry taking up too much of your time? Well, researchers in Australia have developed self-cleaning nanotechnology that breaks down organic material when it's exposed to light. A little light cleaning is just what the doctor ordered!

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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*-- Carpet, clothes could soon clean themselves with light --*

MELBOURNE - Don't have time to do laundry? Just wear your dirty clothes in the sun.

It sounds like a joke, but new nanotechnology may make the technique a reality in the near future. Researchers in Australia have developed a way to integrate self-cleaning nanotechnology into textiles.

The technology is made possible by special nanostructures that break down organic matter when exposed to light. Scientists at Australia's RMIT University developed a technique for cheaply and efficiently growing these nanostructure on textiles.

The textiles are dipped in an array of solutions and within 30 minutes, nanostructures begin developing within the woven material. The nanostructures work by turning sunlight into electron energy. The energy transfer triggers a catalytic reaction that results in the degradation of organic matter.

Researchers believe the technology will pave the way for self-cleaning clothes, carpet and other textile products.

"The advantage of textiles is they already have a 3D structure so they are great at absorbing light, which in turn speeds up the process of degrading organic matter," researcher Rajesh Ramanathan said in a news release. "There's more work to do to before we can start throwing out our washing machines, but this advance lays a strong foundation for the future development of fully self-cleaning textiles."

Ramanathan and his colleagues detailed their latest research in the journal Advanced Materials Interfaces.

"Our next step will be to test our nano-enhanced textiles with organic compounds that could be more relevant to consumers, to see how quickly they can handle common stains like tomato sauce or wine," Ramanathan said.

*-- Cornell engineers unveil self-healing, morphing metal --*

ITHACA, N.Y. - A new hybrid material promises to bolster the field of soft robotics. The material is part metal, part foam -- its pliability, strength and durability offer the best of both worlds.

The metal-foam compound is rigid when required, but can change shape on the fly and heal itself when damaged.

"It's sort of like us -- we have a skeleton, plus soft muscles and skin," lead researcher Rob Shepherd, an engineering professor at Cornell University, said in a news release. "Unfortunately, that skeleton limits our ability to change shape -- unlike an octopus, which does not have a skeleton."

Shepherd and his research team set out to create a material with the strength and structural integrity of the human skeletal system, but with the adaptability of an octopus.

"That's what this idea is about, to have a skeleton when you need it, melt it away when you don't, and then reform it," Shepherd said.

To build their hybrid material, the team used Field's metal, a fusible metal alloy with a relatively low melting point of 144 degrees Fahrenheit. To complete the hybridization process, researchers dipped porous silicone foam in the molten metal alloy and then placed it in a vacuum. As the air is sucked from the foam's pores, it's replaced by the metal.

In testing the end results, researchers found the hybrid material became malleable when heated and regained its strength and rigidity when cooled.

"Sometimes you want a robot, or any machine, to be stiff," explained Shepherd. "But when you make them stiff, they can't morph their shape very well. And to give a soft robot both capabilities, to be able to morph their structure but also to be stiff and bear load, that's what this material does."

The team published their research in the journal Advanced Materials.


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