Researchers at University of California, Berkeley, have developed a method that lead to curtains and other materials move in response to light - no batteries required. How does it work?

The research team layered carbon nanotubes - atom-thick rolls of carbon - onto a plastic polycarbonate membrane to create a material that moves quickly in response to light.

"Within no time, the nanotubes absorbed light, converted it into heat and transferred the heat to the polycarbonate membrane's surface," said Ali Javey, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences.

The plastic expanded in response to the heat, while the nanotube layer did not, causing the two-layered material to bend, said a press release issued by UC-Berkeley.

"The advantages of this new class of photo-reactive actuator is that it is very easy to make and it is very sensitive to low-intensity light," said Javey.

"The light from a flashlight is enough to generate a response," he added in a paper published in journal Nature Communications.

"We envision these in future smart, energy-efficient buildings. Curtains made of this material could automatically open or close during the day," said the release. Other potential applications include light-driven motors and robotics that move toward or away from light, the researchers said.


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