The team has goals other than creating a squishy toy in mind, though. Ultimately, the chemists want to be able to create tiles of smart soft materials that can show medical information when placed on a person’s skin. The material could be used in wearable sensors that change colors, for instance, when it detects abnormally high or low blood sugar in diabetic patients. A whole Rubik’s Cube-like collection of the material could also be used to store a huge amount of information, considering the toy can form as many as 43 quintillion configurations.
Jonathan Sessler, a professor of chemistry at The University of Texas at Austin and co-author of the study, explained:
“Think of QR codes, which are patterns of black and white pixels on a two-dimensional surface used to store information. We’re exploring ways to encode information in patterns of color and in three dimensions, theoretically leading to a much higher information density.”