Scientists from Tel Aviv University have developed a soft, flesh like material that can be “programmed” to produce whatever pattern they would like, according to Haaretz. Of course the first thing they made it do was create a smiley face.
The new “soft robot” metamaterial is actually quite simple. It consists of a cube of rubbery, 3D-printed material, that, when compressed, deforms into a specific shape. This is achieved by creating smaller, precise blocks that make up the larger block, each one printed into a very specific shape, so that the geometry of the material itself is where the desired effect is coded. So by changing the shape of specific components within the material, they can make it do whatever they want in response to a physical stimulus. It’s more or less the same process that atoms go through to create and program cells, this time writ large. For their first demonstration, they made it push out a smiley face.
The applications for the new flesh range from more reactive, comfortable prosthetics to commercial applications that could produce more interactive products. And while this first demonstration of their creation has manifested as a cube of a gel-like material, by changing the chemical composition of the material, it could also be formed out of harder, softer, or even gaseous stuff. This shapeshifting geometric wonder may be the next step in materials science, which could put a smile on the face of scientists and amputees everywhere.