News & Announcements

Soft robots can bend, walk and grip, but unlike their rigid counterparts, they can deform and bounce back into shape. In their recent publication in the journal ACS: Applied Materials & Interfaces, graduate student Gregory Gossweiler and MRSEC investigator Stephen Craig report a new way to make an elastic material for soft robots that changes color when it stretches. The color change might be used as camouflage or to indicate stress points, leading to a better robot design, but it also shows that the team has the capability to embed other chemical agents in the polymer that might be released on command, such as drugs, catalysts or enzymes.

Flexible, elastic, and soft robots under development could bridge the gap between traditional rigid robot movements and the more fluid, adaptable movements of animals and humans. These soft machines respond when they are pumped with gases or liquids. This inflation results in specific shape changes and desired movements. To impart more versatility to these devices, Stephen Craig and colleagues wanted to take advantage of the molecular changes that occur when a robot curls or twists.

The researchers incorporated color-changing compounds in their robots' material that are activated when stretched. This feature could allow a robot to camouflage itself while it moves. And, because the color change is most intense where the strain on the material is highest, it also can indicate where it's vulnerable to breaking.

Watch the robots walk and grip here.

Newly discovered genetic sequences will allow unprecedented control over assembly of protein structures. In their recent publication in Nature Materials, Research Triangle MRSEC professor Ashutosh Chilkoti and graduate fellow Felipe Garcia Quiroz created test motifs to identify the amino acid sequences that determine phase behavior in proteins. They demonstrate that proteins can be designed to exhibit tunable phase transitions, allowing significant control over assembly and disassembly processes. Read More

Oak Ridge National Labs (ORNL) and Duke University held a Joint Workshop in Neutron Science & Scattering on Friday, September 18, 2015 on Duke's main campus. George Truskey, Interim Dean of Engineering (Duke), and Alan Tennant, Chief Scientist, NScD (ORNL) welcomed approximately 55 faculty, students and staff from ORNL and the Triangle Universities. Larry Carin, Vice Provost for Research (Duke), also provided a lunchtime message. Discussions were valuable and will certainly foster new user proposals and collaborations between institutions. 

Presentation documents may be viewed as follows:

Gabrielle Boudreau: Becoming a Successful Neutron User

Brad O'Dell, NCSU: Graduate Science Opportunities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Olivier Delaire, ORNL: Neutron scattering investigations of atomic dynamics in energy materials

Bhuvnesh Bharti, NCSU: Neutron scattering as a tool to investigate amphiphile binding onto nanocurved interfaces

Thomas Barthel, Duke: Accurate T>0 response functions for strongly-correlated quasi-1D systems using DMRG

Terrence Oas, Duke: Using Small Angle X-ray Scattering to Study the Structure of a Staph Virulence Factor

Anuj Kapadia, Duke: Neutron Spectroscopic Imaging for Cancer Diagnosis

David Richardson, Duke: Where, exactly, are the non-polar hydrogens in proteins & nucleic acids?

Richard Spontak, NCSU: Small-Angle Scattering of Solvated Block Ionomers

Philippe Lorchat, UNC: Orientation order in polyelectrolyte solutions by SAXS and SANS

Congratulations to MRSEC faculty, Orlin Velev and Michael Rubenstein, as well as Post-Doc, Bhuvnesh Bharti, for having their publication highlighed on the homepage! READ MORE

In a paper published this week in Nature Materials, researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill show that magnetic nanoparticles encased in oily liquid shells can bind together in water, much like sand particles mixed with the right amount of water can form sandcastles.