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Multiresponse Shape-Memory Nanocomposite with a Reversible Cycle for Powerful Artificial Muscles

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posted on 19.01.2021, 11:31 authored by Chi Chen, Yangyuanchen Liu, Ximin He, Hua Li, Yujie Chen, Ying Wei, Yusen Zhao, Yanfei Ma, Zhen Chen, Xu Zheng, Hezhou Liu
In the field of bionic soft robots and microrobots, artificial muscle materials have exhibited unique potential for cutting-edge applications. However, current mainstream thermal-responsive artificial muscles based on semicrystalline polymers (SCPs), despite their excellent physical properties, suffer from the limitation of environmental stimuli in practice, while their photodriven counterparts adopting liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs) lack ductility. Herein, a novel multifunctional programmable artificial muscle with a unique patch-sewing structure formed by π–π stacking between azobenzene groups was designed, which combined the advantages of SCPs and LCEs. The nanocomposite demonstrated a unique combination between artificial muscle performance (46.5 times the energy density and 26.6 times the power density of human skeletal muscles) and programmability (274.84% strain and 100% shape-memory recovery rate within 1 s). Meanwhile, coupling the photoisomerization of azobenzene and the photothermal conversion of gold nanorods, the cycle of deformation triggered by ultraviolet light and restoring by infrared light could be accomplished rapidly within 30 s. A COMSOL Multiphysics model was established and the corresponding finite element analysis verified the photoactuation and captured the general principle of light initiation in elastomers. These demonstrate that the multifunctional programmable elastomer is promising for artificial muscle applications, especially for photoinduced actuation.