Shape-Shifting Plastic Powers Motors
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"Joel, this is Marty Cooper, I'd like you to know that I'm calling you from a cellular phone." Exactly 40 years ago, on April 3, 1973, Motorola engineer Martin Cooper placed this call -- the first ever on a cell phone -- to Joel Engel, his rival at AT&T’s Bell Labs.
Cooper, now 85, made history in downtown Manhattan using the bulky prototype he had developed.
Cooper's prototype arrived on the market a decade later at the staggering price of $3,995. Designed by Rudy Krolopp, it was known as the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, or simply "the brick.” Featuring 20 large buttons and a long rubber antenna, it measured about 11 inches high, weighed almost 2 pounds, provided one hour of battery life and could store 30 phone numbers.
Motorola Mobility, LLC
Released in 1984, Nokia’s Mobira Talkman was advertised as one of the first transportable phones. It was sold for use both in and out of a car -- if you could lift it.
Nokia's concept evolved in 1987 with the handheld mobile Mobira Cityman 900. Weighing 28 ounces, it was one of the lightest phones at that time and cost 24,000 Finnish marks ($5,178).
Motorola Mobility, LLC
Ahead of its time, the Motorola MicroTAC was the smallest available phone when it was released in 1989. Featuring the flip-phone form later adopted by the fashionable StarTAC, the first clamshell cellular phone, the MicroTAC was 9 inches long when open and weighed only 12.3 ounces.
Launched in 1992 -- also when the first text message arrived -- the Nokia 101 was the first commercially available GSM mobile phone.
Although it lacked the famous Nokia ringtone, introduced in 1994, it featured a monochrome display and memory for 99 phone numbers. Its design anticipated the successful "candy bar” phones.
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Released in 1993 as a joint creation of IBM and BellSouth, this was the first smartphone. A fax machine, a PDA, a pager and a mobile phone, the IBM Simon featured no physical keys, but used a touchscreen and optional stylus. Amazingly, it included applications such as games, email, a notepad, calculator, world clock, address book and a calendar. It only sold in the United States, for $899.
Launched in 1999, this was the first mobile phone with integrated GPS.
Featuring a large grayscale LCD screen, it offered a 12-channel GPS navigator and maps to trace position. It also sent coordinates via text messages to a list of emergency numbers and featured a "friend find” service to track other Benefon Esc users.
Launched in 2000, the Samsung SPH-M100 Uproar holds its place in history as the first mobile phone capable of storing and playing MP3 files.
Cell phone photography arrived in 2000, with Samsung's SCH-V200, a VGA-camera-equipped phone. Released in South Korea, it featured a digital camera with a 180-degree rotating lens and a maximum resolution of 352 x 288 -- a far cry from the 41-megapixel camera phone that Nokia will release in European markets in May.
Motorola Mobility, LLC
Motorola brought contemporary design to mobile phones with the Razr V3 in 2004. Thin, trendy and stylish, it featured a VGA camera, quad-band compatibility and Bluetooth support.
The phone became an icon. According to Motorola, more than 110 million units sold worldwide.
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The launch of Apple's iPhone in 2007 changed everything. With its unique design, easy-to-use operating system and a multitude of apps to download, the multi- touchscreen phone set the standard for all cell phones to come.
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Once an accessory for the privileged, Martin Cooper's vision is now a staple of life. Today the world has nearly as many mobile phone subscriptions as inhabitants.
Indeed, 6 billion people, out of the world's estimated 7 billion, have access to mobile phones.
A new polymer that changes shape and returns to its previous form, depending on the temperature could use ambient heat to drive tiny motors. The new shape-shifting polymer could be used as window blinds that open and close automatically without a battery or any other power source.
Previous shape memory polymers lose their ability to “remember” their original shape after only a few cycles. But the new polymer, designed by researchers from the Institute of Biomaterial Science at Germany’s Helmholtz Center, Geesthacht, is able to flip back and forth between two stages 250 times.
Since they can change shape over and over, the polymers can drive motors. The Hemholtz center team demonstrated one, called a heat engine, in which a gear is turned as the temperature rises and falls. As the polymer mix is heated or cooled, some of the molecules inside crystallize and expand, while others start to flow and contract. That is what makes the movement and provides direction.