Bioinspired MXene-based actuators for programmable smart devices | 7/10/2019 | Staff
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During photosynthesis, natural leaves with elaborate architectures and functional components can harvest and convert solar energy into chemical fuels that are converted into energy. The biological energy production has provided materials scientists a new bioinspired paradigm to produce many autonomous systems, including light-triggered motion. In a recent report, Guofo Cai and co-workers at the departments of Materials Science and Engineering, Astronautic Science and Mechanics, and Chemical Engineering, developed an unprecedented bilayered actuator base on MXene (Ti3C2Tx)-cellulose composites (MXCC) and polycarbonate (PC) membranes.

The device mimicked the sophisticated architecture of a leaf and showed energy-harvesting and conversion capabilities similar to photosynthesis. The bilayered actuator contained highly desirable features including; multi-responsiveness, low-power actuation, fast actuation speed, large-shape deformation, robust stability and programmable adaptability—well suited for modern soft actuator-based smart systems. Cai et al. believe these adaptive soft systems will be attractive as revolutionary technologies to build soft robots, smart switches, for information encryption, infrared dynamic display, camouflage and temperature regulation. They envision additional uses of the technology to develop human-machine interfaces such as haptics. The study is now published in Science Advances.

Materials - Scientists - Materials - Devices - Shape

Materials scientists have studied materials and devices that dynamically change shape, size and electrical/mechanical properties in response to external stimuli for a variety of applications. Such devices have important functions as actuators, artificial muscles, in robotics, as energy generators, sensors and smart curtains. Scientists have devoted substantial efforts to develop smart actuators based on a variety of active materials such as carbon nanotubes and graphene, shape memory polymers, gels, conjugated polymers and liquid crystal elastomers as well as ceramics and alloys.

A variety of environmental stimuli such as humidity, temperature, electricity, light and pH can trigger physical alterations of these materials. But it is presently difficult to enhance the speed of actuation and scale-up shape changes due to poor mechanical and thermal instability...
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