Transparent actuators and robots based on single-layer superaligned carbon nanotube sheet and polymer composites†
Transparent actuators have been attracting emerging interest recently, as they demonstrate potential applications in the fields of invisible robots, tactical displays, variable-focus lenses, and flexible cellular phones. However, previous technologies did not simultaneously realize macroscopic transparent actuators with advantages of large-shape deformation, low-voltage-driven actuation and fast fabrication. Here, we develop a fast approach to fabricate a high-performance transparent actuator based on single-layer superaligned carbon nanotube sheet and polymer composites. Various advantages of single-layer nanotube sheets including high transparency, considerable conductivity, and ultra-thin dimensions together with selected polymer materials completely realize all the above required advantages. Also, this is the first time that a single-layer nanotube sheet has been used to fabricate actuators with high transparency, avoiding the structural damage to the single-layer nanotube sheet. The transparent actuator shows a transmittance of 72% at the wavelength of 550 nm and bends remarkably with a curvature of 0.41 cm−1 under a DC voltage for 5 s, demonstrating a significant advance in technological performances compared to previous conventional actuators. To illustrate their great potential usage, a transparent wiper and a humanoid robot “hand” were elaborately designed and fabricated, which initiate a new direction in the development of high-performance invisible robotics and other intelligent applications with transparency.