Easy-Mouldable Liquid Crystalline Elastomers as Smart Materials

Liquid crystalline elastomers (LCEs) are able to convert external stimuli (e.g. heat, light, electricity, magnetism, etc) into mechanical movement. As actuators and sensors, they have demonstrated promising prospects in various applications such as muscle mimics, soft robotics, and Braille displays. As a bottleneck, the processing of LCEs has obstructed LCEs from real-world applications for many years. Recently, utilizing reversible transesterification reaction, easily mouldable and reprocessable LCEs are successfully prepared by researchers from our department. This work is finished by Ph.D student Zhiqiang Pei, Master student Yang Yang, Ph.D student Qiaomei Chen, Prof. Yen Wei, and Associate Prof. Yan Ji  and their coworker, Prof. Eugene. M. Terentjev, Cambridge University, and published online on Dec. 1st, 2013 in Nature Materials (Nat. Mater., 2014, 13, 36).

Figure 1 (a) Reversible length change in response to temperature; (b) Reversible bending in response to temperature; (c) Dome-shape hollow LCE pillar made by simple thermo-compression molding; (d) Up and down of a dome-shape LCE actuator in response to temperature.