Powder/thermoplastic composite can be manipulated

Researchers from the Public University of Navarre, Spain, have discovered ways to manipulate an iron powder/thermoplastic composite using heat and magnetic fields.

According to the university, they have achieved “a degree of control never seen before”.

The composite can reportedly be heated at specific locations which become malleable and can then be attracted by magnetic fields. In one test, a filament was heated at the center and a magnetic field pulled it from the sides to bend it along the pre-heated area. The filament solidified upon cooling down. This process was repeated several times to form different letters using a single strand.

In a second experiment, a sheet of material was heated up by a laser at specific points. Afterwards, a magnetic field attracted these points and, as they cooled down, they became solid forming a Braille pattern. This process was repeated for more complex patterns.

“We have demonstrated complex manipulations on 3D blocks, 2D sheets and 1D filaments, which will have applications in tactile displays and object manipulation,” said Asier Marzo, one of the university researchers.

The composite can reportedly be remotely manipulated in air, water or inside biological tissue, so could be used in the development of biomedical devices, tactile displays and object manipulators.

“Due to the low transition temperature and the capability of heating through opaque materials using microwave, the composite can be manipulated inside biological tissue, offering great potential for biomedical devices,” added Marzo.