A Light in the Darkness
January 24, 2014

A Light In The Darkness

I have always been none-too fond of light. I like dark, cool places. I guess you could say I am a lot like fungus in that regard. My eyes are somewhat sensitive to light, which could easily be attributed to my not liking it very much – it’s a harsh cycle – and so my home tends to be fairly dark as well. I mean, sure I use light to read by and do things like that, but overall my home is really dark. Part of this is that I never bother adjusting the curtains despite the time of day. I simply leave them closed so that I do not forget and leave them open in case of nosy neighbors/potential home invaders. Sure, it might sound paranoid, but that has happened to be before. All in all, it would probably be a good idea for me to get some more light even if that would damage by beautiful death-like pallor. Sure, if I was just being lazy about it, there are remote controlled curtains, but those would only last me until the batteries ran out and I stopped caring enough to change them. This is why I think the idea of automatic, light-activated curtains is absolutely brilliant.

A research team led by Ali Javey, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at the University of California, Berkeley and faculty scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab has layered carbon nanotubes, which are atom-thin tubes of carbon, onto a plastic polycarbonate membrane that creates a material that can move quickly in response to light, hereby creating possible curtains, and other materials, that are able to adjust themselves – no batteries needed. Taking as little light as a standard flashlight and only a fraction of a second, the carbon nanotubes take in light, convert it into heat, and then transfer that collected energy to the surface of the polycarbonate membrane. The plastic then expands due to the heat while the nanotubes maintain their original form, which then causes the two-layered material to bend. The best part about the entire process is that these “curtains” are both simple and inexpensive to make. In addition to smart, energy efficient home sand other buildings that would have curtains that open and close themselves automatically depending on the time of day, potential future applications for this new innovation could include light-driven motors and even robots able to move with or against the light.

Videos of this amazingly simple new invention can be seen both here and here.

Necessity is said to be the mother of invention, though I might add that laziness could be viewed as a distant cousin that no one talks about. Though I doubt these automatic curtains were developed because the researchers simply did not want to walk over and adjust the blinds themselves, it certainly could lead to a lazy solution for darker homes for people like me. Even so, the potential of these energy saving, smart-curtains is well worth the effort gone into their creation.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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