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Changing the Texture of Plastics On Demand

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the what-would-you-do-with-this? dept.

Science 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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Imagine (3, Interesting)

sixtyeight (844265) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384467)

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

Re:Imagine (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384495)

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

heh, captcha 'tingle'

Re:Imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384609)

Yeah, the voltages here are along the line of a neon sign transformer. Ouch! Of course, the actually science article in Advanced Materials doesn't make the same claims in the Slashdot summary and gizmag.

Re:Imagine (2)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384611)

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.....

Re:Imagine (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#39385253)

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

Re:Imagine (3, Interesting)

sixtyeight (844265) | more than 2 years ago | (#39385705)

Wonder if that would be enough to make a surface that's a solid-state conveyor belt. It would stay right where it's at, and just sort of ripples items along its surface in waves.

Re:Imagine (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39385709)

Rule 34 applied to overclocking?

Re:Imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39386765)

not with liquid helium please !

Re:Imagine (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39386759)

The Chuck Yeager's what? What did he own that is someone's "of the adult world," whatever that means.

Re:Imagine (1)

sixtyeight (844265) | more than 2 years ago | (#39387429)

Chuck Yeager was a famous child pilot. Despite being an orphan, he broke the sound barrier while he was still in grade school.

Hence, this would be the Chuck Yeager "of the adult world".

Re:Imagine (1)

Apothem (1921856) | more than 2 years ago | (#39387635)

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.

Re:Imagine (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389841)

Did you ask loudly in the middle of a crowd? It is the best way to find something.

Re:Imagine (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 2 years ago | (#39387413)

Speedbumps FTW!!

Tons of uses (3, Interesting)

deciduousness (755695) | more than 2 years ago | (#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!

Finally... (1)

sixtyeight (844265) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384499)

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

Re:Finally... (4, Insightful)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Finally... (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#39385247)

or you could just get a phone with buttons

Re:Finally... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39385559)

What makes someone post this kind of comment? Why wouldn't you want the advantage that buttons provide without taking away from available screen space in applications that don't require a keyboard? Are you threatened by the thought of traditional buttons being replaced? Additionally, a phone with buttons doesn't necessarily provide tactile feedback in a game.

What point could you possibly be making?

Re:Finally... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39386811)

I must respond. My buttons are my life. You shall not take them away.

Re:Finally... (2)

aix tom (902140) | more than 2 years ago | (#39388031)

Hint: Mobile device.

Physical button: no power needed when not pressed.
Touch and/or "powered feedback" button: battery drain from hell.

Doesn't of course really matter for people who want a phone as some sort of game boy or status symbol.

But for getting real work done , last year we made an extensive iPhone / Blackberry comparison in our company, and Blackberry won basically *only* for 2 Reasons:

- Because the battery was able to stand 20 hour sessions on trade fairs with data entry / photo shooting of items / phone calls / mails, the iPhone battery lasted 8 hours max under the same load.
- Because 2-finger thumbing on the physical QWETRTZ keyboard turned out to be about 130% faster. ( With a sample group of about 30 users with no previous experience on either. )

Re:Finally... (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389865)

Nice work. Someone should tell Apple to shut their operation down, as clearly the 30 people have spoken. Also you have no idea this would be a battery drain, as it's not even a finished product. Hubris seems to be your middle name.

Re:Finally... (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 2 years ago | (#39390867)

Buttons? How quaint!

Pr0N industry!!! (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384625)

Imagine, NOT...

Realdoll... (1)

GuruBuckaroo (833982) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384641)

Here come the RealDolls with goosebumbs. And reactive nipples.

As Seen On TV! (1)

core_dump_0 (317484) | more than 2 years ago | (#39385051)

Anyone here think this could be the next ShamWow?

Re:As Seen On TV! (1)

chromas (1085949) | more than 2 years ago | (#39385515)

No, that would have to be something that's already been around for years.

Electric Boobaloo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39385063)

( . Y . )

Re:Electric Boobaloo! (1)

youn (1516637) | more than 2 years ago | (#39387253)

( . Y . )

new chewing gum, chews itself :)

Oh great (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39385095)

Just what all visitors to the USA need. An untrustworthy government with their fingerprints who can easily apply this technology to their own requirements.
I'd mod myself as troll except for the erosion of rights in that country.

LCDs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39385121)

Not clear from the article if they can make this transparent, but since nobody can seem to agree on if LCD panels should be matte or glossy it seems like a reasonable application.

What about current? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39385137)

Hmm, is it purely the voltage that causes this? If so then great. However the articles say nothing about currents on/in these proposed innovations. How can you safely produce these voltages on gloves for instance? One of the comments mentioned "textured prophylactics". I'm not sure I'd want to be among the first to vigorously test that product!

Re:What about current? (1)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39385233)

Hmm, is it purely the voltage that causes this? If so then great. However the articles say nothing about currents on/in these proposed innovations. How can you safely produce these voltages on gloves for instance? One of the comments mentioned "textured prophylactics". I'm not sure I'd want to be among the first to vigorously test that product!

I'm in the field, though I haven't read the paper. I suspect the answer to your question is near zero current and the problem is extremely slow transitions. That's what the state has been for awhile, though usually people are pushing nanometer sized dynamic features rather than the giant features described here.

Okay, but... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39385191), absolutely not for climbing. If they can be made to provide more grip, they can fail and provide less grip at a critical moment.

Re:Okay, but... (1)

kobaz (107760) | more than 2 years ago | (#39392053)

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

Future Apple acquisition target? (1)

BeforeCoffee (519489) | more than 2 years ago | (#39385263)

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.

Obligatory Arthur C. Clarke - Imperial Earth (4, Interesting)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39385545)

"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.'"

Sheesh. Do we really need ... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39385737)

... more knobs on the Sybian controller?

can they do this with paint? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39385773)

I've always had this idea where you could take this same concept and apply it to paint, for interior/exterior home, or mb vehicles. "program" the paint to adopt a specific design pattern, or set it to change colors whenever desired.

Not for gloves... (1)

FrozenFrog (539212) | more than 2 years ago | (#39385823)

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?


Re:Not for gloves... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39385883)

You're forgetting Moore's Law. In eighteen months, it will be down to 7.5kV. It'll be down to TTL voltages in about twelve years.

Well MY first thought was (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39386343)

Two words: Braille screens.

Gaming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39386463)

Wasn't there an article about controller button's giving feedback via texture a few days ago?

A Brail Tablet? A computer for the Blind?... (1)

InnerInsight (2514816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39387237)

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 changes solar panel surface shape to direct dust particles off the solar panels? The possibilities are endless...

Isnt it how terminator shape shiftin was invented? (1)

youn (1516637) | more than 2 years ago | (#39387251)

I am very worried now :p

Don't Be Scared (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#39387481)

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.

Braille Tablets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39388503)

Ahh... the day that we get to see Braille tablets is one advance closer. The display has always been the stumbling block.

Screen cover (1)

MSG (12810) | more than 2 years ago | (#39389013)

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

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