Programmed planar-to-helical shape transformations of composite hydrogels with bioinspired layered fibrous structures
Self-shaping materials have attracted tremendous interest due to their promising applications in soft robotics, and flexible electronics, etc. In this field, a crucial issue is how to construct complex yet elaborate structures in active materials. Here, we present the fabrication of composite hydrogels with both in-plane and out-of-plane structural gradients by multi-step photolithography and the resulting controllable deformations. A patterned gel with a layered fibrous structure like bean pod is developed, which shows programmed deformations from a flat shape to a twisted helix. The parameters of the helix can be deliberately tuned. This approach enables patterning different responsive polymers in specific regions of composite gels, leading to multiple shape transformations under stimulations. The controllability of intricate structures, together with tunable responses of localized gels, facilitates the generation of complex internal stresses and three-dimensional deformations of composite gels toward specific applications.