An artificial shape-shifting flower bloom

This fake blossom’s petals have each been engineered to transform without an external trigger – just time.

Researchers in the US, led by Sergei Sheiko from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, created a new material which includes two types of bonds: permanent bonds that store the material’s final shape and temporary bonds that control how quickly it can reach this shape.

The new material, published in Nature Communications, could be used in medical drug delivery systems.

Shapeshifting materials aren’t new. But they’ve had to rely on a trigger to kick off the change, such as heat, light or change in pH.

So Sheiko and crew made a material that could be programmed to change shape over time, regardless of its environment.

Specially designed hydrogel layers let the researchers control the rate and pathway of shape transformations from seconds to hours.

Such shape-shifting materials could one day be used as biomedical implants – be folded up, inserted through minimally invasive surgery then expand into the desired form once they’ve reached their destination.

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