American Chemical Society
am3c14783_si_003.mp4 (40.32 MB)

Free-Form Liquid Crystal Elastomers via Embedded 4D Printing

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posted on 2023-12-12, 07:30 authored by Luke McDougall, Jeremy Herman, Emily Huntley, Samuel Leguizamon, Adam Cook, Timothy White, Bryan Kaehr, Devin J. Roach
Liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs) are a class of active materials that can generate rapid, reversible mechanical actuation in response to external stimuli. Fabrication methods for LCEs have remained a topic of intense research interest in recent years. One promising approach, termed 4D printing, combines the advantages of 3D printing with responsive materials, such as LCEs, to generate smart structures that not only possess user-defined static shapes but also can change their shape over time. To date, 4D-printed LCE structures have been limited to flat objects, restricting shape complexity and associated actuation for smart structure applications. In this work, we report the development of embedded 4D printing to extrude hydrophobic LCE ink into an aqueous, thixotropic gel matrix to produce free-standing, free-form 3D architectures without sacrificing the mechanical actuation properties. The ability to 4D print complex, free-standing 3D LCE architectures opens new avenues for the design and development of functional and responsive systems, such as reconfigurable metamaterials, soft robotics, or biomedical devices.