Research ArticleBIOMIMETICS

Light-stimulated actuators based on nickel hydroxide-oxyhydroxide

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Science Robotics  30 May 2018:
Vol. 3, Issue 18, eaat4051
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aat4051


Light-induced actuators that are self-contained and compact can be used as artificial muscles for microrobotics because their actuation can be induced wirelessly, which reduces the complexity of the device or system. Here, we report a material system, nickel hydroxide-oxyhydroxide, that could actuate because of a volume change stimulated by illumination of visible light of low intensities. The actuating material here exhibited a turbostratic crystal structure capable of intercalating water, and we show that the intercalated water can be rapidly and reversibly desorbed into the environment under visible light of low intensities, resulting in fast actuation driven wirelessly by light. By electroplating the actuating material on passive substrates, we have fabricated film actuators capable of undergoing reversible bending and curling with an intrinsic actuating stress of 5 to 65 megapascals at response rates in the order of tens to hundreds of degrees per second depending on the light intensity, which are comparable to mammalian skeletal muscles. By intentionally electroplating the nickel hydroxide-oxyhydroxide on selected areas of the substrate, a hinged actuator that can lift objects ~100 times the weight of the actuating material is achieved. Other demonstrations show the potential uses in robotic devices, including sunlight-induced actuation, a biomimicked “sensitive plant” with rapid leaf movement, and a light-powered walking bot.

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