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Ko, Hyunhyub, Javey, Ali
American Chemical Society (ACS)
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Biological systems found in nature provide excellent stimuli-responsive functions. The camouflage adaptation of cephalopods (octopus, cuttlefish), rapid stiffness change of sea cucumbers, opening of pine cones in response to humidity, and rapid closure of Venus flytraps upon insect touch are some examples of nature's smart systems. Although current technologies are still premature to mimic these sophisticated structures and functions in smart biological systems, recent work on stimuli-responsive programmable matter has shown great progress. Stimuli-responsive materials based on hydrogels, responsive nanocomposites, hybrid structures, shape memory polymers, and liquid crystal elastomers have demonstrated excellent responsivities to various stimuli such as temperature, light, pH, and electric field. However, the technologies in these stimuli-responsive materials are still not sophisticated enough to demonstrate the ultimate attributes of an ideal programmable matter: fast and reversible reconfiguration of programmable matter into complex and robust shapes. Recently, reconfigurable (or programmable) matter that reversibly changes its structure/shape or physical/chemical properties in response to external stimuli has attracted great interest for applications in sensors, actuators, robotics, and smart systems. In particular, key attributes of programmable matter including fast and reversible reconfiguration into complex and robust 2D and 3D shapes have been demonstrated by various approaches. In this Account, we review focused areas of smart materials with special emphasis on the material and device structure designs to enhance the response time, reversibility, multistimuli responsiveness, and smart adhesion for efficient shape transformation and functional actuations. First, the capability of fast reconfiguration of 2D and 3D structures in a reversible way is a critical requirement for programmable matter. For the fast and reversible reconfiguration, various approaches based on enhanced solvent diffusion rate through the porous or structured hydrogel materials, electrostatic repulsion between cofacial electrolyte nanosheets, and photothermal actuation are discussed. Second, the ability to reconfigure programmable matters into a variety of complex structures is beneficial for the use of reconfigurable matter in diverse applications. For the reconfiguration of planar 2D structures into complex 3D structures, asymmetric and multidirectional stress should be applied. In this regard, local hinges with stimuli-responsive stiffness, multilayer laminations with different responsiveness in individual layers, and origami and kirigami assembly approaches are reviewed. Third, multistimuli responsiveness will be required for the efficient reconfiguration of complex programmable matter in response to user-defined stimulus under different chemical and physical environments. In addition, with multistimuli responsiveness, the reconfigured shape can be temporarily affixed by one signal and disassembled by another signal at a user-defined location and time. Photoactuation depending on the chirality of carbon nanotubes and composite gels with different responsiveness will be discussed. Finally, the development of smart adhesives with on-demand adhesion strength is critically required to maintain the robust reconfigurable shapes and for the switching on/off of the binding between components or with target objects. Among various connectors and adhesives, thermoresponsive nanowire connectors, octopus-inspired smart adhesives, and elastomeric tiles with soft joints are described due to their potential applications in joints of deformable 3D structures and smart gripping systems.

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