Soft matter

Dual-responsive, shape-switching bilayers enabled by liquid crystal elastomers.

PMID 28466922


Materials that change shape are attractive candidates to replace traditional actuators for applications with power or size restrictions. In this work, we design a polymeric bilayer that changes shape in response to both heat and water by the incorporation of a water-responsive hydrophilic polymer with a heat-responsive liquid crystal elastomer. The distinct shape changes based on stimulus are controlled by the molecular order, and consequently the anisotropic modulus, of a liquid crystal elastomer. In response to water, the hydrophilic polymer layer expands, bending the bilayer along the path dictated by the anisotropic modulus of the liquid crystal elastomer layer, which is approximately 5 times higher along the molecular orientation than in perpendicular directions. We demonstrate that by varying the direction of this stiffer axis in LCE films, helical pitch of the swollen bilayer can be controlled from 0.1 to 20 mm. By spatially patterning the stiffer axis with a resolution of 900 μm

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