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Seamless multimaterial 3D liquid-crystalline elastomer actuators for next-generation entirely soft robots.


Liquid-crystalline elastomers (LCEs) are excellent soft actuator materials for a wide range of applications, especially the blooming area of soft robotics. For entirely soft LCE robots to exhibit high dexterity and complicated performance, several components are typically required to be integrated together in one single robot body. Here, we show that seamless multicomponent/multimaterial three-dimensional (3D) LCE robots can be created via simultaneously welding and aligning LCE materials with different chemical compositions and physical properties without other additives such as tapes and glues (just like metal welding). Both welding and aligning of the LCE materials rely on thermal polymerization of preformed LCE films with reactive acrylate groups. This method provides an easy way to robustly fabricate arbitrary 3D desirable geometries with strongly stable reversible actuations and multifunctionalities, which greatly enlarges and benefits the future applications and manufacturing of LCE soft robots.

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