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Voxelated liquid crystal elastomers

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Science  27 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6225, pp. 982-984
DOI: 10.1126/science.1261019

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Making small actuators more effective

Liquid-crystal molecules orient locally in response to external fields. When long-chain liquid-crystalline molecules are crosslinked together, changes in local orientation can lead to significant volume changes. Ware et al. made efficient microactuators that can change their shape from flat to three-dimensional structures (see the Perspective by Verduzco). By patterning volume elements so that each has a different preferred alignment for the liquid-crystalline molecules, they could fine-tune the volume changes.

Science, this issue p. 982; see also p. 949

Abstract

Dynamic control of shape can bring multifunctionality to devices. Soft materials capable of programmable shape change require localized control of the magnitude and directionality of a mechanical response. We report the preparation of soft, ordered materials referred to as liquid crystal elastomers. The direction of molecular order, known as the director, is written within local volume elements (voxels) as small as 0.0005 cubic millimeters. Locally, the director controls the inherent mechanical response (55% strain) within the material. In monoliths with spatially patterned director, thermal or chemical stimuli transform flat sheets into three-dimensional objects through controlled bending and stretching. The programmable mechanical response of these materials could yield monolithic multifunctional devices or serve as reconfigurable substrates for flexible devices in aerospace, medicine, or consumer goods.

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