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Kent State Researchers Develop First "Walking" Polymer

Robin Selinger
Demonstration of how the polymer reacts to UV light.

Researchers from Kent State University and Edinhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands have developed the world’s first material to convert light into kinetic energy.

The polymer material, which is the size of paper clip, propels itself forward when it comes into contact with UV light.

Graduate students at Kent State took part in the project along with professor Dick Broer at Edinhoven.

“The Broer group has been synthesizing different materials for a long time and they came up with the material that responds in an interesting way to light,” says Kent State professor Robin Selinger. “So if you shine UV material, it actually flexes and moves. And these materials have been studied for a long time.”

Selinger assisted and says the experimental material, which has been in the works for a few years, could be used for cleaning surfaces such as solar panels in the desert to avoid dust build up.  

“A researcher could take a light sources and shine it on the material on one part of the sample and another part of the sample and make it deform in some kind of way,” Selinger says.