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Next Big Thing – electro grip plastic

Your mobile could soon switch from smooth to grippy in an instant thanks to a new plastic discovery

Electro plastic? Sounds like a crappy superhero.

Funny you should say that – this stuff could turn you into Spider-Man. Developed by Xuanhe Zhao at Duke University, electro plastic is a new type of polymer that can change its surface texture in less than a second when it’s electrically charged. So you could have a pair of gloves with a surface that changes from a silky smooth finish to grippy textured plastic in an instant. Okay, you might not be able to climb walls with it just yet, but give it time.

Sweet but I’m never going to get my, ahem, hands on that kind of technology.

Don’t be so pessimistic – this tech is perfect for mobile devices. Imagine an iPhone 5 that switches from a smooth surface when it’s at rest, to a textured surface when you pick it up – it’d save a few smashed screens.

What else could you do with this tech besides creating grippy surfaces in an instant?

Well, we recently reported on a new technology that adapts screens so you can feel rough and smooth textures. That company was bought by Apple – and the iPad 3 was rumoured to be Feel sensitive. Perhaps this new polymer could be combined with Apple’s rumoured Feel tech in time for the iPad 4. Imagine touching a picture of corrugated steel and feeling your finger bounce along the surface.

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Profile image of Dan Grabham Dan Grabham Editor-in-Chief


Dan is Editor-in-chief of Stuff, working across the magazine and the Stuff.tv website.  Our Editor-in-Chief is a regular at tech shows such as CES in Las Vegas, IFA in Berlin and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as well as at other launches and events. He has been a CES Innovation Awards judge. Dan is completely platform agnostic and very at home using and writing about Windows, macOS, Android and iOS/iPadOS plus lots and lots of gadgets including audio and smart home gear, laptops and smartphones. He's also been interviewed and quoted in a wide variety of places including The Sun, BBC World Service, BBC News Online, BBC Radio 5Live, BBC Radio 4, Sky News Radio and BBC Local Radio.

Areas of expertise

Computing, mobile, audio, smart home

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