Did Science Go Disco On Programmable Materials?

According to a press release from Lund University in Sweden, light of a certain wavelength can be used to put so-called active materials into motion and control their movement. The release notes that the discovery can become significant in widely different areas such as environmental protection, medicine and the development of new materials that can be programmed.

Hmmmmm. I wonder if the researchers got their spark of inspiration on the disco round? While I’m no disco diva and rarely frequent nightclubs that tout rave-type dance floors, I do know that the lightshows get people moving and eventually everyone is in unison jumping to the same beat.

Joakim Stenhammar led the study where he, together with colleagues from universities in Düsseldorf, Edinburgh and Cambridge, developed a model in which patterns of light control the movement of active particles. The light makes synthetically produced particles as well as microorganisms, such as bacteria and algae, spontaneously form into something that can be compared to a pump.

“Our strategy has the potential of developing into an inexpensive and simple way to pump and control bacteria and other active materials,” says Stenhammar.

The release goes on to say that active particles can move with the help of fuel, for example sugar. Again, I think back to the dance floor and note that alcohol has fueled many a mad move. It all makes sense. Well, at least in my mind. I’m sure Stenhammar would think I’m crazy.

Read the entire release here.


Traci Purdum is Chemical Processing’s senior digital editor. While you won’t find her at the dance clubs, she has been known to karaoke several Bee Gees songs in one night. You can email her at tpurdum@putman.net.