Inspired by the way plants grow toward the sun and light sources, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley have created a hydrogel that is controllable by light. The new hydrogel could have future applications in the flexible components of soft robotics, as well as in drug delivery and tissue engineering. The hydrogel consists of synthetic, elastic proteins combined with sheets of graphene. The graphene sheets generate heat when exposed to near infrared light. That heat affects the synthetic proteins, which absorb water when cooled and release it when hot. The hydrogel was designed so that one side was more porous than the other; the side that was more porous allowed a faster absorption and release of water than the other side. This video demonstrates how the material, shaped like a hand about two centimeters wide, is controlled by the near-infrared laser light.
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