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Recent progress of morphable 3D mesostructures in advanced materials

Haoran Fu1, , Ke Bai2, Yonggang Huang3 and Yihui Zhang2,

+ Author Affiliations

 Corresponding author: Haoran Fu, Email: fuhaoran@ifet-tsinghua.org (H.F.); Yihui Zhang, yihuizhang@tsinghua.edu.cn (Y.Z.)

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Abstract: Soft robots complement the existing efforts of miniaturizing conventional, rigid robots, and have the potential to revolutionize areas such as military equipment and biomedical devices. This type of system can accomplish tasks in complex and time-varying environments through geometric reconfiguration induced by diverse external stimuli, such as heat, solvent, light, electric field, magnetic field, and mechanical field. Approaches to achieve reconfigurable mesostructures are essential to the design and fabrication of soft robots. Existing studies mainly focus on four key aspects: reconfiguration mechanisms, fabrication schemes, deformation control principles, and practical applications. This review presents a detailed survey of methodologies for morphable mesostructures triggered by a wide range of stimuli, with a number of impressive examples, demonstrating high degrees of deformation complexities and varied multi-functionalities. The latest progress based on the development of new materials and unique design concepts is highlighted. An outlook on the remaining challenges and open opportunities is provided.

Key words: morphable mesostructuresreconfigurationstimuli



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Fig. 1.  (Color online) Methods and applications of thermally actuated reconfiguration. (a) Shape evolution of two morphable mesostructures made of shape-memory polymers. Reproduced with permission from Ref. [32]. Copyright 2018, AAAS. (b) Shape evolution of LCE with mesogens aligned in groups. Reproduced with permission from Ref. [22]. Copyright 2015, AAAS. (c) Demonstration of a thermally actuated micro-tweezer made of SMA. Reproduced with permission from Ref. [18]. Copyright 2007, IOP Publishing Ltd.

Fig. 2.  (Color online) Methods and applications of chemically actuated reconfiguration. (a) Shape evolution of an ionoprinted hydrogel subject to different solvents. Reproduced with permission from Ref. [60]. Copyright 2013, Macmillan Publishers Limited. (b) Schematic illustration of a 3D jump micro hydrogel device, and scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of embedded microfluidic channels. Reproduced with permission from Ref. [61]. Copyright 2010, The Royal Society of Chemistry. (c) Evolution of the micro hydrogel device induced with a liquid solvent. Reproduced with permission from Ref. [61]. Copyright 2010, The Royal Society of Chemistry. (d) 2D-to-3D shape transformation of a tri-layer hydrogel subject to a variant pH. Reproduced with permission from Ref. [68]. Copyright 2014, John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Fig. 3.  (Color online) Methods and applications of optically actuated reconfiguration. (a) Bending of a cantilever made of LCE with azobenzene under the exposure of light with different polarization angles. Reproduced with permission from Ref. [80]. Copyright 2011, The Royal Society of Chemistry. (b) Rolling of a LCE film induced through the application of visible and UV light. Reproduced with permission from Ref. [82]. Copyright 2008, John Wiley & Sons Inc. (c) Shape evolution of a bilayer film with photo-initiated proton-releasing agent. Reproduced with permission from Ref. [67]. Copyright 2012, The Royal Society of Chemistry.

Fig. 4.  (Color online) Methods and applications of magnetically actuated reconfiguration. (a) Milli-robots made of magnetoelastic soft materials. Reproduced with permission from Ref. [92]. Copyright 2018, Macmillan Publishers Limited. (b) Navigation of a ferromagnetic soft continuum robots through 3D cerebrovascular phantom network. Reproduced with permission from Ref. [96]. Copyright 2019, AAAS.

Fig. 5.  (Color online) Methods and applications of electrically actuated reconfiguration. (a) Schematic illustration of a robotic fish made of DE (left-hand panel), and forward motion of the fish (right-hand panel). Reproduced with permission from Ref. [110]. Copyright 2017, AAAS. (b) Shape reconfiguration of four actuators made of IPMC (top panel), and working process of a three-finger gripper (bottom panel). Reproduced with permission from Ref. [101]. Copyright 2008, Cambridge University Press. (c) Movement of an insect-scale robot made of PVDF. Reproduced with permission from Ref. [118]. Copyright 2019, AAAS.

Fig. 6.  (Color online) Methods and applications of mechanically actuated reconfiguration through the use of different strain release paths. (a) Illustration of the strategy through a sequence of FEA results and a pair of colorized SEM images for the two stable configurations. (b) SEM images and FEA predictions of morphable, recognizable objects. (c) Exploded view of the layer construction for a morphable electromagnetic device with shielding capability. (d) Optical images and FEA predictions of the device. (e) Simulated radiant efficiency of three antennas at two different stable shapes. Reproduced with permission from Ref. [137]. Copyright 2018, Macmillan Publishers Limited.

Fig. 7.  (Color online) Methods and applications of mechanically actuated reconfiguration assisted by kirigami substrate designs. (a) Conceptual illustration of the fabrication process, through a sequence of FEA results. (b) Two-dimensional geometries, FEA predictions, and scanning electron microscope images of a 3D morphable trilayer microstructure as mechanically tunable optical chiral metamaterials. (c) Measured and simulated optical circular dichroism of the 3D trilayer microstructure with two 3D shapes in the 0.2–0.4-THz frequency range. Reproduced with permission from Ref. [5], Copyright 2019, National Academy of Sciences.

Table 1.   Summary of reconfiguration methods.

Stimuli typeMechanism/materialAdvantageDisadvantageResponse timeReference
Thermal stimuliShape-memory polymersRemote actuation; Large actuation strainSlow response Low actuation force15 min[32]
Thermally responsive hydrogelLow transition temperatureRelatively slow response5–10 s[37]
Liquid crystal elastomersRemote actuation; Complex reconfigurable geometryRelatively slow response15 s[22, 23]
Shape-memory alloysHigh energy density; Large actuation strain and forceLimited operating temperature; Low bandwidth0.15–14 s[18, 140]
Transition metal oxidesRemote actuation; High work density; Fast responseLow bandwidth0.34–12.5 ms[19, 141]
Chemical stimuliSwelling deformation/
hydrogel
Fast response possible biocompatibleSensitive to environment0.4 s –1 min[51, 60, 63]
Swelling deformation/
inorganic materials
Large actuation forceSensitive to environment3.4 s[65]
Change of swelling ratioBiocompatibleSlow response; Sensitive to environment10 min[52]
Optical stimuliDirect activationRemote actuation; Fast responseLow thermal stability12.5 ms[73, 75, 142]
Indirect activationRemote actuationRelatively slow response30 s[67]
Magnetic stimuliConventional polymer fabrication with magnetic particlesRemote actuation; Fast response; Multiple reconfigurable geometryLow actuation force for microscale structures< 0.25 s[88]
Additive manufacture with magnetic particlesRemote actuation; Fast response complex initial geometryLow actuation force for microscale structures< 0.5 s[95]
Individual magnetsRemote actuation; Fast responseChallenging to scale down to microscale0.4 s[98, 99, 143]
Electric stimuliDielectric elastomersLarge actuation strain; Fast responseHigh voltage< 1 ms[144]
Ionic polymer-metal compositesLow voltageRelatively slow response14 s[105]
Piezoelectric materialsStable thermal and chemical properties; High power density;
Fast response
Relatively high voltage< 5 ms[121]
Mechanical stimuliStrain release paths of substratesParallel reconfiguration; Diverse compatible material; Large applicable length scale; Multiple and complex reconfigurable geometryRelatively slow response> 20 s[137, 139]
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    Received: 24 October 2019 Revised: 11 December 2019 Online: Accepted Manuscript: 08 January 2020Uncorrected proof: 15 January 2020Published: 10 April 2020

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      Haoran Fu, Ke Bai, Yonggang Huang, Yihui Zhang. Recent progress of morphable 3D mesostructures in advanced materials[J]. Journal of Semiconductors, 2020, 41(4): 041604. doi: 10.1088/1674-4926/41/4/041604 H R Fu, K Bai, Y G Huang, Y H Zhang, Recent progress of morphable 3D mesostructures in advanced materials[J]. J. Semicond., 2020, 41(4): 041604. doi: 10.1088/1674-4926/41/4/041604.Export: BibTex EndNote
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      Haoran Fu, Ke Bai, Yonggang Huang, Yihui Zhang. Recent progress of morphable 3D mesostructures in advanced materials[J]. Journal of Semiconductors, 2020, 41(4): 041604. doi: 10.1088/1674-4926/41/4/041604

      H R Fu, K Bai, Y G Huang, Y H Zhang, Recent progress of morphable 3D mesostructures in advanced materials[J]. J. Semicond., 2020, 41(4): 041604. doi: 10.1088/1674-4926/41/4/041604.
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