It could be used as the self-cleaning surface of solar panels, preventing sand and dust from sticking to it
Researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and the Humboldt University in Berlin just discovered a thin polymer layer that moves spontaneously under the influence of daylight. Their study, titled ‘A chaotic self-oscillating sunlight-driven polymer actuator’, was published earlier this month in the journal Nature Communication, and constitutes an important step towards the realization of autonomous, persistently self-propelling machines and self-cleaning surfaces powered by sunlight. ‘A surface that vibrates in the sun makes it difficult for sand and dust to stick to it’, says TU/e researcher Michael Debije. ‘We have just discovered the effect; we expect that this will attract attention from many researchers from whom we will be hearing a lot over the coming period’, he continues.
In the past, materials that move all by themselves under the influence of light had already been studied, but this is the first material found to behave this way in visible light, and ideally in unprocessed sunlight. This liquid crystalline polymer film containslight-sensitive molecules (azo-dyes) and is capable of continuous chaotic oscillatory motion when exposed to ambient sunlight in air. Even the researchers cannot explain the phenomenon yet and assume it happens due to a combination of factors, which they are still investigating.
Source: TU/e News