Scientists have developed “mimosa” starch-based smart drives

On July 7, the latest research results of Du Xuemin’s team from the Intelligent Medical Materials and Devices Research Center of Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences were published in Advanced Functional Materials. The research team developed a highly sensitive and multiple-response starch-based driver that mimicates mimosa and its applications in environmental perception feedback, smart lampshades and smart food.

The highly sensitive, multi-response starch-based intelligent drive of mimosa developed by the team Photo courtesy of the scientific research team

Bionic intelligent drives can mimic natural organisms to change shape, color and motor behavior under external stimuli, showing great application potential in emerging fields such as soft robots, human-machine interfaces and biomedical devices. Despite extensive progress in recent years, smart drives based on synthetic polymers still face challenges in terms of reproducibility, sustainability, and biosecurity, and although natural polymer-based drives are closer to the organizational composition of natural biological systems, the abundance of hydrogen bonding in such polymers results in a more homogeneous driving behavior.

As a typical natural polymer, starch has the characteristics of renewable, biocompatible and degradable, has broad application prospects in biomedicine, food and other fields, and a large number of strong hydrogen bonds in its molecular chain make it have unique gelatinization characteristics, but also limit its driving behavior, although chemical modification or the introduction of synthetic polymers and other ways to regulate hydrogen bonds can give it excellent driving characteristics, but inevitably affect starch regeneration characteristics, biological safety and other excellent properties. 

To solve this challenge, the research team proposed a new hydrogen bond-mediated strategy by using the rich hydrogen bonds and unique gelatinization characteristics of starch, and successfully constructed a highly sensitive and multiple-response starch-based intelligent drive of mimosa.

“The starch-based smart drive is mainly composed of three components, namely natural starch with thermal gelatinization properties, sodium alginate derived from marine brown algae, and liquid metal particles with excellent photothermal effect.” Du Xuemin, the corresponding author of the paper, said.

Based on the above components, the research team successfully constructed two different types of intelligent drives: ungelatinized starch-based drives and gelatinized starch-based drives. On the one hand, the ungelatinized starch-based driver triggers local gelatinization through photothermal – the irreversible “unlocking” of hydrogen bonds between starch particles and molecules, and then realizes irreversible photocontrolled editing of various complex forms of ungelatinized starch-based drivers. On the other hand, the gelatinized starch-based drive triggers the reversible “unlocking” of hydrogen bonds between starch molecules in a low humidity environment of about 10.2%, a human body temperature of nearly 37 degrees, and low-intensity light, which can successfully realize the highly sensitive and multiple drive functions of gelatinized starch-based drives.

Such intelligent drivers based on natural polymer materials have broad application prospects in intelligent sensing such as artificial mimosas, smart lampshades and smart food. (Source: China Science News, Diao Wenhui)

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