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'Flying Carpet'-Inspired, Shape-Changing Microfluidic Sheet Moves Autonomously

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering have designed a shape-changing sheet that moves autonomously in a reactant-filled fluid. The researchers say the self-propelled, chemically-active sheet can wrap, flap, and creep. A microfluidic device that contains these sheets could perform functions like grabbing a soft object. "Researchers previously have made chemically active patches on a surface that could generate fluid flow, but the flow didn’t influence the location or shape of the patch. And in our own lab we’ve modeled spherical and rectangular particles that can move autonomously within a fluid-filled microchamber. But now we have this integrated system that utilizes a chemical reaction to activate the fluid motion that simultaneously transports a flexible object and 'sculpts' its shape, and it all happens autonomously," explained principal investigator Anna C. Balazs.