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Hong Kong researchers discover Vis-light-powered new actuating material
Last Updated: 2018-06-01 01:32 | Xinhua
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A novel actuating material that can be powered by visible (Vis) light was discovered by researchers from the University of Hong Kong, which made the findings public on Thursday.

The research team, led by Alfonso Ngan Hing-wan, Chair Professor in Materials Science and Engineering at the university's Faculty of Engineering, found that nickel hydroxide-oxyhydroxide can be actuated by Vis light at relatively low intensity to produce high stress and speed comparable to mammalian skeletal muscles.

In addition, this novel material system can be actuated by electricity, enabling it to be integrated into the present well-developed robotics technology.

The material actuation can be instantaneously triggered by Vis light to produce a fast deformation and exert a force equivalent to 3,000 times of its own weight. The material cost of a typical actuator is as low as 4 HK dollars (about 0.51 U.S. dollar) per cm square.

Among various stimuli, light-induced actuating materials are highly desirable because they enable wireless operation of robots.

However, very few light driven materials were available in the past, and their material and production costs are high, which hindered their development in actual applications such as artificial muscles for robotics and human assist device, and minimally invasive surgical and diagnostic tools, the researchers said.

When integrated into a well-designed structure, a "mini arm" made by two hinges of the new actuating materials can easily lift an object 50 times of its weight, which, together with some other experiment results, demonstrated that future applications in micro-robotics including rescue robots are possible.

The researchers said this discovery has opened up a new research field on light-induced actuating behavior for this material type because it has never been reported before.

The research has been published in the prestigious journal Science Robotics with the title "Light-stimulated actuators based on nickel hydroxide-oxyhydroxide." (1 U.S. dollar equals 7.84 HK dollars)

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