Researchers create self-assembling material straight out of ‘Big Hero 6’

self assembling spheres unist material assemble
UNIST
It’s Big Hero 6 come to life in South Korea, where a team of international researchers has created a material that self-assembles on command into swarms, chains, or clusters. The research was published recently in the online version of Nature Materials, a monthly scientific journal focusing on materials science and engineering.

Inspired by how bees fly in a swarm and bacteria form clusters, the team affiliated with Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) set out to duplicate this behavior in the laboratory. Starting with computer models, a team led by Dr. Erik Luijten of Northwestern University designed a set of self-propelled colloidal spheres that self-arrange into a pattern when exposed to an electric field.

The researchers then tested their simulation in the laboratory using specialized spheres called Janus colloids, which were created by lead researcher Dr. Steve Granick of the IBS Center for Soft and Living Matter at the UNIST School of Natural Science. These Janus particles have two sides — one with a positive charge and the other with a negative charge. When exposed to an electric field, the charges on the particles are modified, and their electrostatic interactions change. As a result, some particles are actively repulsed, some particles are strongly attracted to each other, and some particles remain neutral. This imbalance in attractions makes its possible for the spheres to form automatically into patterns such as a chain, sphere, or cluster.

The international team hopes its research someday will be used to improve drug delivery in the medical field. The team envisions a future where drugs are placed inside of these spheres, which will self-assemble at the site of the body where the drugs are most needed. They also could be used to build self-forming microrobots that exist as individual particles until they are required to self-assemble into an operational machine.

Cars

Lyft and Aptiv’s self-driving car program has come a long way (but not far enough)

Many companies talk about self-driving cars, but Lyft and Aptiv are already using a fleet of them to transport paying customers in Las Vegas. Hop in for a close look at the tech of autonomous cars, and the challenges they face.
Outdoors

Hydro Flask’s Journey backpack can keep your water cold for hours

The Hydro Flask Journey hydration pack uses insulating fabrics and heat-reflecting materials to help keep your water fresh and cold for hours on end while out for a hike or mountain bike ride.
Photography

Photography news: Careful, self-driving cars can ruin your camera sensor

In this week's photography news, learn how self-driving cars destroyed a digital camera via lasers. Find out how many patents Canon filed for in 2018. Read about what Tamron lenses are available for the Nikon Z6.
Emerging Tech

Too buzzed to drive? Don’t worry — this autonomous car-bar will drive to you

It might just be the best or worst idea that we've ever heard: A self-driving robot bartender you can summon with an app, which promises to mix you the perfect drink wherever you happen to be.
Emerging Tech

ANYmal dog robot can get back on its feet when someone pushes it over

Roboticists at ETH Zurich have demonstrated how their ANYmal four-legged robot is capable of taking a kicking and keeping on walking -- or getting back to its feet if it's pushed over.
Emerging Tech

A.I. finds non-infringing ways to copy drugs pharma spends billions developing

Researchers have demonstrated an artificial intelligence which can find new methods for producing existing pharmaceuticals in a way that doesn’t infringe on existing patents. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Coinstar machines will let you swap cash for Bitcoin at your local grocery store

Coinstar, the company which owns the coin exchange machines found at grocery stores and elsewhere, will soon let you easily buy Bitcoin with your cash money. Here's how it will work.
Emerging Tech

Facebook hasn’t given up on the idea of building an internet drone

Facebook's efforts to provide internet connectivity from the skies using solar-powered drones suffered a blow last year when the company abandoned its "Aquila" drone project. But the company clearly hasn't given up on the idea.
Emerging Tech

World’s biggest fleet of campus delivery robots now transporting student meals

The world’s largest fleet of delivery robots on a university campus is coming to Fairfax County, Virginia’s George Mason University. Here's how the ordering and delivery process plays out.
Deals

Smart luggage does it all with wireless charger, built-in scale, GPS tracking

The SkyValet smart luggage, currently being funded on Kickstarter, offers solutions to many common travel struggles. With SkyValet, you no longer need separate portable chargers, a scale to weigh your bag, a lock, or a tracking device. It's…
Emerging Tech

The CRISPR baby saga continues as China confirms second gene-edited pregnancy

China’s official Xinhua news agency has confirmed that a second woman has become pregnant as part of a controversial experiment to create the world’s first genetically edited babies.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk offers to help dig CERN’s new particle collider tunnel

CERN plans to put the Large Hadron Collider to shame with its proposed much larger Future Circular Collider -- and Elon Musk wants to help. Because, you know, he's not busy enough.
Emerging Tech

Once again, a drone has reportedly caused a shutdown at a major airport

Reported drone sightings near New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport forced flights to be halted early Tuesday evening. One of the drones reportedly came within 30 feet of an aircraft.
Emerging Tech

Scientists find a way to create a renewable supply of cancer-fighting T cells

In a major advance for "off-the-shelf" cancer therapies, UCLA researchers have shown that it's possible to create T cells with important cancer-killing receptors from pluripotent stem cells.