Evolution of self-oscillating polymer gels as autonomous polymer systems

NPG Asia Materials 6, e107; doi: 10.1038/am.2014.32; Published Online 20 June 2014



Ryo Yoshida & Takeshi Ueki

Responsive polymer gels: Gaining autonomy
Muscles and other soft tissues in the body experience spontaneous rhythmic changes, such as a heartbeat, hormonal secretion and the cell cycle, without requiring external stimulation. Ryo Yoshida and Takeshi Ueki from the University of Tokyo, Japan, review their team's progress to develop polymer gels that freely undergo cyclic swelling and shrinking. Although tremendous efforts to mimic biological systems have generated numerous synthetic responsive materials for smart tissue engineering and therapeutic applications, these existing systems lack autonomy and depend on induced pH, temperature and other environmental fluctuations to operate. In contrast, the team's gels rely on the oscillating Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction — a metal-catalyzed oxidation reaction that exhibits spontaneous periodic temporal and spatial patterns. The self-oscillating gels have applications that include biomimetic actuators and tubular intestine-like mass transport systems, providing new perspectives for materials science, robotics and biophysics.

NPG Asia Materials ISSN 1884-4049(Print) ISSN 1884-4057(Online)