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Feel like a snake

When you think about snakes, you might think about gliding, you might think about weird eyes and the ability to attack prey quickly.
But you might not think of the snake’s skin and its keen ability to detect temperature.

California institute of technology in mechanical engineering and applied physics professor Chiara Daraio and her team have been studying a kind of “artificial skin” material, it is actually in ways similar to snake temperature perception, this ability is very useful in many areas in the field of biomedical. .

Pectin effect
Material pectin is vital to the project and its involvement happens by accident.

“My favorite projects include academic freedom and how research leads to serendipity,” Daraio said. “We first investigated the properties of the composite materials produced in the plant cell matrix. We created composite materials that bind cells from different species of plants. We see the same responses of electrical materials, which are very sensitive to changes in ambient temperature. It varies with outdoor temperature and humidity. Let’s investigate and answer the question of why we see this temperature effect. Why are these plant cells so sensitive to these factors? ”
The team spent more than a year trying to solve these problems when they stumbled upon an active molecule in plant cells: pectin.

What’s special about pectin, she says, is that it’s a double-stranded molecule, with two chains attached to each other by a doubly charged calcium ion. “Imagine they zip like a zipper and the ionic conductivity of the surrounding material increases,” she said. “Eventually we take the pectin and synthesize it. What we realize here is that it’s a good temperature sensor. “

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