Mechanical behaviour of contractile gels based on light-driven molecular motors†
The networking of individual artificial molecular motors into collective actuation systems is a promising approach for the design of active materials working out of thermodynamic equilibrium. Here, we report the first mechanical studies on active polymer gels built by integrating light-driven rotary molecular motors as reticulation units in polymer networks. We correlate the volume ratio before and after light irradiation with the change of the elastic modulus, and we reveal the universal maximum mechanical efficiency of such gels related to their critical overlap concentration before chemical reticulation. We also show the major importance of heterogeneities in the macroscopic contraction process and we confirm that these materials can increase their internal energy by the motorized winding of their polymer chains.