In a discovery that may speed commercial and industrial uses of a third family of "smart fluids," scientists in Maryland are reporting development of new photorheological (PR) fluids that can be made simply and inexpensively.
Srinivasa R. Raghavan and his students point out that electrorheological (ER) fluids and magnetoreheological (MR) fluids have found wide application in devices ranging from automobile shock absorbers and brakes to damping technology to help stabilize buildings against earthquakes.
ER and MR fluids change instantly and reversibly from a free-flowing liquid to a semi-solid with controllable strength in response to an electric or magnetic field, respectively. PR fluids are designed to accomplish the same feat using light as the trigger. They are not widely used, however, either in the lab or in industry because they are difficult and expensive to make, the researchers report in an article scheduled for the Feb. 21 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
The new PR fluids, in contrast, are based on simple, inexpensive chemicals available in most labs, say the researchers, who envision PR fluids as a technology that could enable Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS). Those much-discussed devices would integrate mechanical elements, sensors, actuators and electronics on chips that could revolutionize many different products.
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