Phototropism is the growth phenomenon of an organism in response to a light stimulus, and is observed mostly in plants. Having enticed researchers for years, study authors from the University of California and Arizona State University have now found a way to create a material that emulates this behaviour.
According to their paper, published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, they have elaborated on the same.
Phototropism is best seen in flowers that turn with the movement of the sun.
According to a report in Phys.org, while scientists have developed similar technology, it has only been in plants and they wanted to recreate something similar using synthetic material that follows a light source by simply bending towards it, in real time, on its own.
Study authors, in the new research, have now claimed to have achieved the goal, having created a polymer material that bends toward a light source with no external contributing factors.
According to the Phys.org report, researchers managed to create the same by combining a photo-responsive nanomaterial and a thermo-responsive material together.
The photo-responsive nanomaterial absorbs light and converts it to heat, while the thermo-responsive material contracts when exposed to heat, the study saw.
Subsequently, researchers moulded their polymer into the shape of a flower stem and shot a ray of light at it from varying angles.
According to study authors, the stem bent to point directly at the light source, because the light that was absorbed by the stem at a given location and angle was converted to heat, which forced the material on the side of the light to contract. This resulted in the stem bending towards the light.
The stem continued to bend, reported researchers, till it reached a degree where its top partially obscured the light source, making it fixed at that place.
The team then placed a "bloom" on the stem, in this case, a small solar panel. According to them, the discovery could be used to increase the efficiency of solar panels.
Researchers named the new system as a sunflower-like biomimetic omnidirectional tracker, or 'SunBOT'.