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Scientists at Eindhoven University of Technology and Kent State University have developed a new material that can undulate and therefore propel itself forward under the influence of light. To this end, they clamp a strip of this polymer material in a rectangular frame. When illuminated it goes for a walk all on its own. This small device, the size of a paperclip, is the world’s first machine to convert light directly into walking, simply using one fixed light source. The researchers publish their findings on 29 June in the scientific journal Nature. The maximum speed is equivalent to that of a caterpillar, about half a centimeter per second. The researchers think it can be used to transport small items in hard-to-reach places or to keep the surface of solar cells clean. They placed grains of sand on the strip and these were removed by the undulating movement. The mechanism is so powerful that the strip can even transport an object that is much bigger and heavier than the device itself, uphill.”

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