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Untethered soft robotic matter with passive control of shape morphing and propulsion

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Science Robotics  21 Aug 2019:
Vol. 4, Issue 33, eaax7044
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aax7044

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Abstract

There is growing interest in creating untethered soft robotic matter that can repeatedly shape-morph and self-propel in response to external stimuli. Toward this goal, we printed soft robotic matter composed of liquid crystal elastomer (LCE) bilayers with orthogonal director alignment and different nematic-to-isotropic transition temperatures (TNI) to form active hinges that interconnect polymeric tiles. When heated above their respective actuation temperatures, the printed LCE hinges exhibit a large, reversible bending response. Their actuation response is programmed by varying their chemistry and printed architecture. Through an integrated design and additive manufacturing approach, we created passively controlled, untethered soft robotic matter that adopts task-specific configurations on demand, including a self-twisting origami polyhedron that exhibits three stable configurations and a “rollbot” that assembles into a pentagonal prism and self-rolls in programmed responses to thermal stimuli.

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