Remember the scene in the movie "Batman Begins" wherein Lucius Fox showed Bruce Wayne a bunch of weapons, armor, and a "tumbler"?
One of those items is what Lucius calls "memory cloth"--a lightweight fabric that becomes rigid when an electrical current passes through. This is clearly fictional but applied mathematicians at the National University of Ireland Galway and Politecnico di Bari in Italy took the challenge of creating one quite literally and worked on making this into reality. Mind. Blown.
Soft electroactive materials, or dielectric membranes are lightweight fabrics that expand and harden when high voltage is applied. But applying too much voltage will break the membrane, hence knowing such breaking point is critical in making the bat cape.
“Some are a millimetre thick, but if they thin out too much when they stretch with the voltage, it can lead to a short-circuit and a catastrophic breakdown," says Michel Destrade, a professor at the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Applied Mathematics in NUI Galway and author of the study.
Therefore, the formula will connect the membrane's physical properties to how much stretching (with the voltage) it could sustain until it breaks. "We hope our mathematical formula will help advance science in this area,” Destrade added.
And while it seemed nonsense to put so much effort in creating such fabric, this formula has actually many other uses aside from bringing the bat cape into our very own hands.
“The very near and real applications for these materials are artificial human muscles, or soft robots which can help organs function," says Dr Giuseppe Zurlo, co-author of the study. “The final equation is very compact and it will provide most useful safety guidelines for future experiments on these fascinating materials."