Revolutionary artificial material fits body like a glove

In the future, the innovative material could be used to build custom-made prostheses for amputees as well as other wearable technologies that can mold itself to the body.

July 27, 2016 23:20
1 minute read.
Tel Aviv University campus

Tel Aviv University campus. (photo credit: PR)


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A new material not found in nature that has unique properties and potential applications that require exact fitting on the human body and soft robots has been engineered by scientists at Tel Aviv University and in the Netherlands.

The achievement was published on Wednesday night in the prestigious journal Nature.

The great advantage of the meta-material is that it can be produced to fit any format. In the future, the innovative material could be used to build custom-made prostheses for amputees as well as other wearable technologies that can mold itself to the body exactly; soft robots could also be manufactured from the new material.

“Meta-materials are smart materials engineered by man and not found in nature,” said Dr. Yair Shokef, head of the research group at TAU’s School of Mechanical Engineering. “In contrast to the materials currently being used whose characteristics are determined by their chemical composition (atoms and molecules ), the physical properties of meta-materials result from their spatial structure.

“Thus,” said Shokef, “the special building blocks and how they fit together determine the characteristics of the meta-material. In the new study, the meta-material we have developed are ground-breaking and three-dimensional rather than cyclical, in which the patterns keep repeating themselves.

“All meta-materials developed so far have been homogeneous and crafted according to one pattern. But we and our colleagues in the Netherlands have developed cubical building blocks that are hollow, allowing flexibility.

“Then we used computational tools to build these cubes into larger, three-dimensional structures programmed to order. Smart placement of building blocks within the structure allows us to create the outer surface of the buildings all desirable pattern of bumps and hollows,” said Shokef.

The new meta-material especially interfaces with biological surfaces, especially the human body, which is not uniform by nature. For example, it will be possible in future to build prostheses that most accurately suit an amputee’s stump like a glove, and improve their feeling and functioning.

The other researchers were TAU’s Eial Teomy and Drs. Corentin Coulais, Koen de Reus and Martin van Hecke of the Leiden Institute of Physics.

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