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Sci Adv. 2018 Jan 26;4(1):eaao3865. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aao3865. eCollection 2018 Jan.

Programming a crystalline shape memory polymer network with thermo- and photo-reversible bonds toward a single-component soft robot.

Author information

1
State Key Laboratory of Chemical Engineering, College of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310027, China.
2
Soft Matter Research Center, Key Laboratory of Soft Machine and Smart Devices of Zhejiang Province, Department of Engineering Mechanics, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310027,China.

Abstract

The need to support the two most basic functions [three-dimensional (3D)-shaped support and actuation] independently for a typical robot demands that at least two components should be used in its construction. Therefore, component assembly is unavoidable despite the ultimate dream of creating assembly-free robots. We devise a strategy that uses a programmable crystalline shape memory polymer with thermo- and photo-reversible bonds to create a single-component robot. The global 3D-shaped structural support is fabricated via a plasticity-based origami technique enabled by the thermo-reversible bonds. More critically, precisely controlled localized actuation can be programmed into the 3D origami via spatially defined reversible shape memory using the photo-reversible bonds. The overall result is that a polymer thin film can be programmed into various soft robots including a 3D crane and an elephant. Besides reversible shape memory, other types of actuation mechanisms can be potentially introduced via a similar principle. Thus, our strategy represents a general method to create single-component soft robots.

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