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A High-Fidelity Preparation Method for Liquid Crystal Elastomer Actuators

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posted on 28.05.2022, 13:06 authored by Yaoyao Jiang, Xu Dong, Qi Wang, Shengping Dai, Lvzhou Li, Ningyi Yuan, Jianning Ding
Three-dimensional (3D) structural actuators based on monodomain liquid crystal elastomers (mLCEs) show a wide range of potential applications. A direct ink writing technique has been developed to print LCE structures. It is still a challenge to print high-precision 3D-mLCE actuators. Here, a method of wet 3D printing combined with freeze-drying is proposed. The coagulation bath is designed to restrain the nascent fiber disturbance of the capillary wave and weight by adjusting the ink viscosity and printing speed to control the LC molecular order, enabling uniform (B = 1.02) fibers with a high degree of orientational alignment (S = 0.45) of the mesogens. Furthermore, dynamic disulfide bond formation was used as the cross-linking point, which can allow the LCE network structure to be continuously cured to ensure adjacent layers are effectively bonded and, in combination with freeze-drying, produce the 3D-mLCE actuators of fidelity architecture (98.37 vol %) by printing. The actuators have excellent actuating strain (45.12%), and the dynamic disulfide bond makes them programmable. Finally, a printed bionic starfish and a printed bionic hand can easily grab regular and irregular objects. This work provides a feasible scheme for fabricating complex 3D-mLCEs with reversible changes in shape.