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Surprising Science

Smart Nanomaterials Self-Regulate Like Human Skin

Harvard scientists have created a nanomaterial which regulates itself by adjusting to a host external stimuli like temperature, pH, pressure, and the presence or absence of certain chemicals. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Harvard scientists have designed nanomaterials capable of adjusting to their environment, just as live organisms would, by self-regulating their temperature, pH, pressure, and the presence or absence of essential molecules. “Called SMARTS (Self-regulated Mechano-chemical Adaptively Reconfigurable Tunable System), this newly developed materials platform offers a customizable way to autonomously turn chemical reactions on and off and reproduce the type of dynamic self-powered feedback loops found in biological systems.” The nanomaterial resembles a microscopic toothbrush, with bristles that stand up and lie down, making contact with a chemical layer of nutrients. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Natural materials like human skin are far more dynamic than our most advanced commercial products that respond to their environment, like sunglasses that darken in bright sunlight. “The recent advance represents a step toward more intelligent and efficient medical implants and even dynamic buildings that could respond to the weather for increased energy efficiency. The researchers also expect that their methodology could have considerable potential for translation into areas such as robotics, computing, and healthcare.” The material could also help stabilize bodily functions by measuring levels of glucose or carbon dioxide in the blood. 

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