Data is increasingly defining us – from the information we share on the web, to that collected by the numerous companies with whom we interact. Intrigued by the sheer scales involved, photojournalist Rick Smolan wanted to see how data was transforming the world.”
This story about “genius” materials – and research about the materials, and their applications – is re-posted from NASA Science News.
These materials have the ability to self-assemble, which means that on the molecular level, under certain conditions, the molecules have the ability to move around into new configurations, leading to materials with new properties. Research that is done at the International Space Station is particularly interesting because gravity does not have an effect on the materials on this space-based laboratory.
“If you have a smartphone, take it out and run your fingers along the glass surface. It’s cool to the touch, incredibly thin and strong, and almost impervious to scratching. You’re now in contact with a “smart material.”
Smart materials don’t occur naturally. Instead, they are designed by human engineers working at the molecular level to produce substances made-to-order for futuristic applications. The Corning Gorilla Glass that overlays the displays of many smartphones is a great example. It gets it toughness, in part, from “fat” potassium ions stuffed into the empty spaces between old-fashioned glass molecules. When the molten glass cools during manufacturing, dense-packed molecules solidify into a transparent armor that gives Gorilla Glass its extraordinary properties.”
Science fiction fans are familiar with Steve Austin and Geordi LaForge. CLiPS researchers have been working in areas that previously might have been viewed as science fiction with the development of an optical lens that mimics the way human eye lenses work. This research may lead to more natural acting implantable lenses, as well as providing applications for optical equipment and surveillance technology.
A recent article in Optics Express described research coming out of CLiPS technology that has led to advanced polymer, multi-layered lenses. This article published online by The Optical Society describes the research and its potential, quoted here in part:
“The research team’s new approach was to follow nature’s example and build a lens by stacking thousands and thousands of nanoscale layers, each with slightly different optical properties, to produce a lens that gradually varies its refractive index, which adjusts the refractive properties of the polymer.”
This story was picked up by UPI and, understandably, has generated a great deal of interest both in the technical and popular press.
Click HERE for more information about CLiPS research; and HERE to learn more about the GRIN lenses.