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Mechanical Adaptability of Artificial Muscles from Nanoscale Molecular Action

submitted on 21.05.2019, 14:29 and posted on 22.05.2019, 15:23 by Federico Lancia, Alexander Ryabchun, Anne-Déborah Nguindjel, Supaporn Kwangmettatam, Nathalie Katsonis
The cooperative operation of artificial molecular motors and switches has been amplified in polymer-based approaches that have led to versatile motion at the macroscale. As these active, shape-shifting polymers have become ever more sophisticated in their morphing capabilities, a major remaining challenge is to encode muscle-like mechanical adaptability during their operation and to explore its molecular origin. Here, we describe the mechanical adaptability of materials in which the light-induced action of molecular switches modifies the intrinsic interfacial tension, in a phase heterogeneous design featuring a liquid crystal polymer network swollen by a liquid crystal. When the swelling creates sufficient interfacial tension, light triggers an unprecedented and reversible photo-stiffening, analogous to myosin-powered muscle fibers. These mechanoadaptive materials adjust their stiffness to the task they must perform, also while they move, and display muscle-like behaviour that might contribute significantly to the development of human-friendly and soft robotics.


FOM Grant 13PR3105

ERC Consolidator Grant 772564


Email Address of Submitting Author


University of Twente


The Netherlands

ORCID For Submitting Author


Declaration of Conflict of Interest

No conflict of interest