Towards Smart Artificial Materials

Towards Smart Artificial Materials


Liquid-crystalline elastomers (LCEs) are the most promising candidates for smart artificial materials. This is in particular due to their capability to perform a reversible shape-change in response to external stimuli like temperature, electric field, or light.

Camilla Parmeggiani and Diederik Sybolt Wiersma, University of Florence and CNR-INO, Sesto Fiorentino, Italy, and colleagues have demonstrated that two-photon direct laser writing (DLW) is suitable for fabricating 1D, 2D, and 3D liquid crystal elastomer structures with sub-micrometer resolution. Moreover, the liquid-crystalline and optical properties of the written materials could be maintained.

They used a liquid-crystalline monomer mixture containing the LC monomer, a crosslinker, the photoinitiator Irgacure 369, and an azo-dye. After laser scanning, the molecules are crosslinked together. High-resolution 3D LCE structures in the desired shapes and dimensions were produced.

The researchers think that their results open up the road towards 3D microphotonics in elastomers, where their optically induced deformations can be used as a feedback mechanism to tune their optical properties. In addition, the researchers expect that this technique lays the basis for creating 3D, micrometer-size robotic structures, which can be controlled by light.

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