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Ionoprinting: Patterning and Actuating Gels Using Ions

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Published on Aug 2, 2013

Researchers at NC State have developed a method called 'ionoprinting' with the capability to pattern and actuate hydrated gels in two and three dimensions by locally patterning ions using electric fields. The ability to pattern, structure, re-shape and actuate hydrogels is important for biomimetics, soft robotics, cell scaffolding and biomaterials.

The ionic binding changes the local mechanical properties of the gel to induce relief patterns and in some cases evokes localized stresses large enough to cause rapid folding. These ionoprinted patterns are stable for months, yet the ionoprinting process is fully reversible by immersing the gel in a chelator. The mechanically patterned hydrogels exhibit programmable temporal and spatial shape transitions and serve as a basis of a new class of soft actuators able to gently manipulate objects both in air and in liquid.

The paper, "Reversible patterning and actuation of hydrogels by electrically assisted ionoprinting" is co-authored by Etienne Palleau, Daniel Morales, Michael Dickey and Orlin Velev and published in Nature Communications.

The work was supported by the National Science Foundation Triangle MRSEC program and the French DGA.

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