Self-Assembling Gears

Posted 24 Jul 2009 at 15:16 UTC by Rog-a-matic Share This

The title is a bit sensational and somewhat misleading but the technique created by Engineers at Columbia University to utilize thermal expansion characteristics of dissimilar materials to create mechanical devices could prove very useful in building small-scale machines. A thin metal film is deposited on to a special polymer. When the temperature is reduced, wrinkles form in the composite material based on the structure's design due to the differing thermal expansion characteristics of the materials. These wrinkles can be made to produce formations such as gear teeth and other mechanical components. After the item is formed, a hardening process is used to fix the device's shape permanently. The application for micro and nano-scale machines is promising because of its simplicity and low production cost.

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