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Science Technology

Changing the Texture of Plastics On Demand 48

cylonlover writes "Imagine a pair of rubber gloves whose surface texture could be altered on demand to provide more grip for climbing. Or maybe gloves with "fingerprints" that can be changed in the blink of an eye. They are just a couple of the many potential applications envisioned by researchers at Duke University for a process they have developed that allows the texture of plastics to be changed at will. By applying specific voltages, the researchers have been able to dynamically switch polymer surfaces among various patterns ranging from dots, segments, lines to circles."
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Changing the Texture of Plastics On Demand

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  • Imagine (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sixtyeight ( 844265 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:05PM (#39384467)

    Ooh, variable-textured prophylactics and, um, novelty items. Right on.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      i'm sure your girlfriend will want to be the first to put an electric condom inside her.

      heh, captcha 'tingle'

      • by EdIII ( 1114411 )

        Uhhh, I know some girls that have messed around with some voltages on their vibrators. Trust me. There are some girls that will be willing to test anything, even if involves car batteries in the room. The Chuck Yeager's of the adult world.....

        • by artor3 ( 1344997 )

          The voltage would probably be the most fun part of it, given that "the pattern sizes can be tuned from millimeter to sub-micrometer."

        • by PPH ( 736903 )

          Rule 34 applied to overclocking?

        • OH GOD! Where?! Where?! You must show me where you find people like this! And don't tell me outside, because I've already looked there and I don't anyone would know what I'm talking about.
    • by rts008 ( 812749 )

      Speedbumps FTW!!

  • Tons of uses (Score:3, Interesting)

    by deciduousness ( 755695 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:06PM (#39384483)

    Or turn a walkway from grippy to slippy at the right moment. How about changing the texture of a glass from grip-able to something smooth and easier to wash? Perhaps this could be used for airflow changes.. maybe a helmet that can alter its skin to allow more or less internal airflow? Sounds like fun!

  • "Would you like your newspaper in e-paper or Braille format, sir?"

    • Re:Finally... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by similar_name ( 1164087 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:25PM (#39384661)
      Or a tablet/phone/touchscreen that changes the texture of its surface. You could add tactile feedback for alpha-numeric keys as well as software (e.g. game) feedback.
      • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

        or you could just get a phone with buttons

        • Buttons? How quaint!

  • Imagine, NOT...

  • Here come the RealDolls with goosebumbs. And reactive nipples.
  • Anyone here think this could be the next ShamWow?

  • Okay, but... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ...no, absolutely not for climbing. If they can be made to provide more grip, they can fail and provide less grip at a critical moment.

    • by kobaz ( 107760 )

      Products made with this technology might just have "not for climbing" stamped on the side :P

  • I've been wondering if it were possible to have raised virtual keyboard keys/reconfigurable tactile surfaces on smartphone screens. Looks like someone's figured out how to do it. I'd love to see the virtual keyboard key go flush with the display when I "press" it and then raise itself again when my finger comes up.

    This professor needs to commercialize the concept.

  • by icebraining ( 1313345 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @08:54PM (#39385545) Homepage

    "Have you seen one of these?" she asked, as she opened the lid.
    Lying in a nest of velvet was something that looked like a large, silver egg, about twice the size of the real eggs that Duncan had encountered in the Centennial Hotel.

    "What is it?" he asked. "A piece of sculpture?"

    "Pick it up---but be careful not to drop it."

    Despite this warning, that was very nearly what he did. The egg was not particularly heavy, but it seemed alive--even squirming in his hand, though it showed no sign of any visible movement. However, when he looked at it more carefully, he could see faint opalescent bands flowing over the surface and momentarily blurring the mirror finish. They looked very much like waves of heat, yet there was no sensation of warmth.

    "Cup it in both hands," Calindy instructed him, "and close your eyes."

    Duncan obeyed, despite an almost irresistible impulse to see what was really happening to the extraordinary object he held. He felt completely disoriented, because it seemed that the sense of touch--the most reliable of all man's messengers from the external universe-was betraying him. For the very texture of the egg was constantly changing. It no longer felt like metal; unbelievably, it was furry. He might have been fondling some small wooled animal--a kitten, perhaps ....

    But only for seconds. The egg shivered, became hard and rough--it was made of sandpaper, coarse enough to grate the skin... .. the sandpaper became satin, so smooth and silky that he wanted to caress it. There was barely time to obey the impulse when... .. the egg was liquefying and becoming gelatinous. It seemed about to ooze through his fingers, and Duncan had to force himself not to drop it in disgust. O.nly the knowledge that this could not really be happening gave him strength to control the reflex...

      . . it was made of wood; there was no doubt of that, for he could even feel the grain...

      . . before it dissolved into myriads of separate bristles, each so sharp and distinct that he could feel them prickling his skin ....

    And there were sensations that he could not even name, some delightful, most neutral, but some so unpleasant that he could scarcely control his revulsion.
    At last, when within his cupped palms Duncan felt the unique, the incomparable touch of human skin, curiosity and amazement got the better of him. He opened his hands; the silver egg was completely unchanged, though now it felt as if it were carved from soap.

    "What in heaven's name is it?" he cried.

    "It's a tactoid. You haven't heard of them?"


    "Fascinating, isn't it? It does to the sense of touch what a kaleidoscope does to vision. No, don't ask me how it works--something to do with controlled electrical stimulation."

    "What's it used for?"

    "Must everything have a purpose? It's just a toy--a novelty. Hut I had a very good reason for showing it to you."

    "Oh, I know. 'The latest from Earth.'"

  • ... more knobs on the Sybian controller?

  • Or anything else wearable. Watch the video at the linked site. They're applying upwards of 15kV to the polymer to get creases to form, and even then they're microscopic.

    Did the story submitter not watch the video?


  • Bumps and dots used in pattern, in real time changing. A blind person keeps their finger in one spot and brail lettering changes under their fingertip. with the user changing the speed to match their comfort in reading speed.. A computer with a display, designed by the blind, for the blind, Computers and the internet could become less restrictive Cars that change paint color? Counter tops that change where bacteria have been detected to unhealthful levels? A mars rover with the capability to change
    • They'll be too busy inventing uses for it in the porn industry to turn it into an evil mercury blob robot.

      Maybe we can create a skin for Data before we get around to building Data. Then he can get on with having sex with wossername to demonstrate his anatomical correctitude.

  • The primary researcher's website is http://www.zhaogroup.org/ [zhaogroup.org]

    The voltage must be passed through the plastic. Not useful for things you don't want electrified.

    http://www.duke.edu/~xz69/papers/34.pdf [duke.edu]

  • How about a display cover that can be either glossy or matte depending on the user's needs?

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming