Vogel/Steen, copyright PNAS
The droplet switch shown here toggles between a big droplet positioned above and below the plate using applied voltage. This novel electro-mechanical switch is capable of working by itself or in larger arrays, and has fast switching times with low voltages, no moving solid parts and can be made very small. Applications are envisioned in the areas of mechanics, micro-fluidics and optics, among others.
Imagine this: A tiny, fast switch that uses water droplets to create adhesive bonds almost as strong as aluminum by borrowing a mechanism found in palm beetles.
The new beetle-inspired switch, designed by Cornell University engineers, can work by itself on the scale of a micron -- a millionth of a meter. The switches can be combined in arrays for larger applications like powerful adhesive bonding. Like the transistor, whose varied uses became apparent only following its invention, the uses of the new switch are not yet understood. But the switch’s simplicity, smallness and speed have enormous potential, according to the researchers.
"Almost all the greatest technological advances have depended on switches, and this is a switch that is fast and can be scaled down," said Paul Steen, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Cornell and co-author of a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Vol. 102, No. 34).
Nicola Pytell | EurekAlert!
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