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Friday, April 15, 2005
  Wired News: Fantastic Spastic Elastic Plastic
Wired News: Fantastic Spastic Elastic Plastic: "Since the late 1990s, Robert Langer of MIT and Andreas Lendlein, of the University of Technology in Aachen, Germany, have been working to create plastics that can change shape when exposed to different wavelengths of light.

Originally, the professors' material shifted shape with the introduction of heat; now it warps with certain wavelengths of light. Though it's uncertain when the process and its resulting products would be available, applications could range from improving minimally invasive surgical procedures to creating funky toys for kids.

'I think there could be some very interesting applications in the medical field. We are thinking about stents, small tubes that are able to open up blood vessels ... and you could use a fiber optic to let the stent open so it stays at the place it should be,' Lendlein said.

The idea is simple: Shine a light on object A, it turns into predetermined shape B. Shine a different light on shape B, it molds back into its original form. Any light in a wavelength range above 260 nanometers will change the first shape to the second; any light in a range below 260 nanometers will change it back. Besides changing shape, the object could be made a little larger or smaller, as tests have shown the plastic in use is capable of stretching about 10 percent to 20 percent.

Right now, the scientists are performing tests in Germany with skinny plastic polymer fibers. The scientists are using light to lengthen them or change their forms into shapes like spirals, and observing how long they'll last in a new position."
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