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See detailLiquid crystal elastomer shells with topological defect-defined actuation: Complex shape morphing, opening/closing, and unidirectional rotation
Sharma, Anjali UL; Stoffel, A. M.; Lagerwall, Jan UL

in Journal of Applied Physics (2021), 129(17), 174701

We produce hollow sphere liquid crystal elastomer (LCE) actuators from a nematic precursor mixture, brought into the shape of a self-closing shell with tangential anchoring of the director field n(r ... [more ▼]

We produce hollow sphere liquid crystal elastomer (LCE) actuators from a nematic precursor mixture, brought into the shape of a self-closing shell with tangential anchoring of the director field n(r), using a solvent-assisted microfluidic technique. By separating the shell production from the polymerization and cross-linking, the precursor is allowed to approach its equilibrium n(r) configuration in the shell, spontaneously forming topological defects of total strength +2. However, the photopolymerization into an LCE induces a brief but strong distortion of the overall n(r) and the defect configuration, even changing the ground state shape in the case of thick shells. The resulting LCE shells show a rich capacity for reversible shape morphing upon heating and cooling, the exact actuation mode defined by n(r), and the final defect configuration stabilized at the end of polymerization. In regions with a single +1 defect, a reversal of curvature from concave to convex is found, punctured shells exhibit a strong shape change between a nearly closed sphere at low temperature and an open-ended spherocylinder at high temperature, and all shells rotate upon actuation when suspended in a fluid. As the rotation is stronger during relaxation than during actuation, thus breaking the symmetry, the net rotation is unidirectional. [less ▲]

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