January 11, 2014 – UC Berkeley researchers have developed a new material combining meshed layers of carbon nanotube and polycarbonate that respond to light by moving. They do this because the nanotubes and polycarbonate react differently in the presence of light. When the nanotubes are exposed to light they convert it to heat. That heat expands the polycarbonate component of the material but not the carbon nanotubes. The result – the material bends. Watch the YouTube demonstration.
Called a photo-reactive actuator it requires no power source other than the light which can be as insignificant as a flashlight beam. The researchers call their material “smart curtains.” That’s because curtains made from this material would automatically open and close during the day in response to light. Other applications – light-driven motors and robots.
The research appears as a paper entitled, Photoactuators and motors based on carbon nanotubes with selective chirality distributions, in the journal, Nature Communications.