Molecularly-Engineered, 4D-Printed Liquid Crystal Elastomer Actuators

Three-dimensional structures that undergo reversible shape changes in response to mild stimuli enable a wide range of smart devices, such as soft robots or implantable medical devices. Herein, a dual thiol-ene reaction scheme is used to synthesize a class of liquid crystal (LC) elastomers that can be 3D printed into complex shapes and subsequently undergo controlled shape change. Through controlling the phase transition temperature of polymerizable LC inks, morphing 3D structures with tunable actuation temperature (28 ± 2 to 105 ± 1 °C) are fabricated. Finally, multiple LC inks are 3D printed into single structures to allow for the production of untethered, thermo-responsive structures that sequentially and reversibly undergo multiple shape changes.

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3D printing, Actuators, Elastomers, Liquid crystals, Robots, Polymer networks, Design, Chemistry, Materials science, Physics
Air Force Office of Scientific Research under award number FA9550-17-1-0328
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