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Bernholc group publishes paper on novel electromechnical material

Physics Ph.D. student Bing Zhang and Professors Wenchang Lu and Jerry Bernholc co-authored a Nature article describing the discovery of the first light-weight, biologically compatible organic material that displays a morphotropic phase boundary. As the accompanying Nature News and Views article points out, materials near a morphotropic phase transition exhibit dramatically improved electromechanical properties and are thus extremely useful in actuators and mechanical switches. However, up to now the only morphotropic materials were lead-containing perovskites, which are heavy and environmentally unfriendly. The polymers described in the article are light, flexible and easily morphed into desired shapes. They could even be used in artificial muscles, with potential dramatic impact in both the workplace and the rehabilitation of the physically disabled.