Autonomous light-actuated LCE actuators
Within this project, liquid crystalline elastomers (LCEs) are used to develop three-dimensional actuators that can extend and contract in response to external stimuli such as heat or light of certain wavelengths. LCEs are polymer networks that contain oriented liquid crystalline units and act as chemical micro-muscular systems that can change shape. These polymer networks are generated through photochemically or thermally induced C,H-insertion crosslinking, a novel synthetic method that introduces chemical crosslinks in a solid state reaction. In addition, specific printing processes will be employed for LCE monodomain production.
The properties of the LCE systems will be fine-tuned with the aim to minimize the necessary energy input, and their shape will be optimized to allow fast movements. For this, resins with high dynamics for reorientation in an external field will be crucial. The aim is that already small light doses suffice to induce strong changes in the polymeric structure, without compromising long-term-stability of the LCEs. The newly developed LCE materials will be adapted and customized to allow microfabrication using high-resolution thin-film processes and photolithographic structuring.