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Large-Scale Spinning Approach to Engineering Knittable Hydrogel Fiber for Soft Robots

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journal contribution
posted on 19.10.2020, 12:12 by Xiangyu Duan, Jingyi Yu, Yaxun Zhu, Zhiqiang Zheng, Qihua Liao, Yukun Xiao, Yuanyuan Li, Zipan He, Yang Zhao, Huaping Wang, Liangti Qu
Efforts to impart responsiveness to environmental stimuli in artificial hydrogel fibers are crucial to intelligent, shape-memory electronics and weavable soft robots. However, owing to the vulnerable mechanical property, poor processability, and the dearth of scalable assembly protocols, such functional hydrogel fibers are still far from practical usage. Herein, we demonstrate an approach toward the continuous fabrication of an electro-responsive hydrogel fiber by using the self-lubricated spinning (SLS) strategy. The polyelectrolyte inside the hydrogel fiber endows it with a fast electro-response property. After solvent exchange with triethylene glycol (TEG), the maximum tensile strength of the hydrogel fiber increases from 114 kPa to 5.6 MPa, far superior to those hydrogel fiber-based actuators reported previously. Consequently, the flexible and mechanical stable hydrogel fiber is knitted into various complex geometries on demand such as a crochet flower, triple knot, thread tube, pentagram, and hollow cage. Additionally, the electrochemical-responsive ionic hydrogel fiber is capable of acting as soft robots underwater to mimic biological motions, such as Mobula-like flapping, jellyfish-mimicking grabbing, sea worm-mimicking multi-degree of freedom movements, and human finger-like smart gesturing. This work not only demonstrates an example for the large-scale production of previous infeasible hydrogel fibers, but also provides a solution for the rational design and fabrication of hydrogel woven intelligent devices.