Smart material from UMass Amherst is made of hydrogel nanocomposite disks that enable it to accurately respond to its environment.


  • Dynamic
  • Responsive
  • Precise


  • Robotics
  • Medical implants
  • Electronics

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 9: Industry Innovation & Infrastructure

The Challenge

Smart materials respond dynamically to various environmental stimuli. Although the materials are programmed t0 react to the stimuli, coordinating the responses of nanostructures within the material remains a challenge that results in inconsistencies and reduced accuracy.

Innovation Details

The smart material is made of an array of oscillators that move in unison with one another to respond to changes in light and temperature. It contains hydrogel nanocomposite disks made up of gels and nanoparticles of gold that are sensitive to changes in light and temperature. The thermal interactions between the particles induce complex oscillatory and rotational motions that allow the material to exhibit a collective behavior.

Biomimicry Story

Many animals and bacteria create movement with a mechanism that involves an oscillator. The oscillator, or network of oscillators, produces a repetitive motion such as wriggling a tail or flapping a wing.