This paper presents our results on liquid crystal (LC) elastomers as artificial muscle, based on the ideas proposed by de Gennes. In the theoretical model, the material consists of a repeated series of main-chain nematic LC polymer blocks, N, and conventional rubber blocks, R, based on the lamellar phase of a triblock copolymer RNR. The motor for the contraction is the reversible macromolecular shape change of the chain, from stretched to spherical, that occurs at the nematic-to-isotropic phase transition in the main-chain nematic LC polymers.
We first developed a new kind of muscle-like material based on a network of side-on nematic LC homopolymers. Side-on LC polymers were used instead of main-chain LC polymers for synthetic reasons. The first example of these materials was thermo-responsive, with a typical contraction of around 35–45% and a generated force of around 210 kPa. Subsequently, a photo-responsive material was developed, with a fast photochemically induced contraction of around 20%, triggered by UV light.
We then succeeded in preparing a thermo-responsive artificial muscle, RNR, with lamellar structure, using a side-on nematic LC polymer as N block.
Micrometre-sized artificial muscles were also prepared. This paper illustrates the bottom-up design of stimuli-responsive materials, in which the overall material response reflects the individual macromolecular response, using LC polymer as building block.
One contribution of 18 to a Discussion Meeting Issue ‘New directions in liquid crystals’.
- © 2006 The Royal Society