Plasticized liquid crystal networks and chemical motors for the active control of power transmission in mechanical devices†
The miniaturization of mechanical devices poses new challenges in powering, actuation, and control since traditional approaches cannot be used due to inherent size limitations. This is particularly challenging in untethered small-scale machines where independent actuation of multicomponent and multifunctional complex systems is required. This work showcases the integration of self-powered chemical motors and liquid crystal networks into a powertrain transmission device to achieve orthogonal untethered actuation for power and control. Driving gears with a protein-based chemical motor were used to power the transmission system with Marangoni propulsive forces, while photothermal liquid crystal networks were used as a photoresponsive clutch to engage/disengage the gear system. Liquid crystal networks were plasticized for optimized photothermal bending actuation to break the surface tension of water and achieve reversible immersion/resurfacing at the air–water interface. This concept is demonstrated in a milliscale transmission gear system and offers potential solutions for aquatic soft robots whose powering and control mechanisms must be necessarily decoupled.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Soft Robotics