Scientists have developed a new technique to grow tiny "hairy" materials that assemble themselves at the microscale.
The key ingredient is epoxy, which is added to a mixture of hardener and solvent inside an electric cell. Then the scientists run an alternating current through the cell and watch long, twisting fibers spring up.
Argonne physicist Igor Aronson, who co-authored the study said that the process is very simple, the materials are cheap and available and they can grow on almost every surface they've tried.
By tweaking the process, the team can grow many different shapes: short forests of dense straight hairs, long branching strands or "mushrooms" with tiny pearls at the tips. Interestingly, though the structures can be permanent, the process is also instantly reversible.
The tiny-fiber structure is so useful that it's evolved several times in nature, Aronson pointed out. For example, blood vessels are lined with a layer of similar tiny protein "hairs," thought to help reduce wear and tear by blood cells and bacterial infections, among other properties.
The study appears in Nature Communications. (ANI)