Bioinspired underwater locomotion of light-driven liquid crystal gels
Shahsavan,Hamed; Aghakhani,Amirreza; Zeng,Hao; Guo,Yubing; Davidson,Zoey S.; Priimägi,Arri; Sitti,Metin (2020-03-10)
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Soft-bodied aquatic invertebrates, such as sea slugs and snails, are capable of diverse locomotion modes under water. Recapitulation of such multimodal aquatic locomotion in small-scale soft robots is challenging, due to difficulties in precise spatiotemporal control of deformations and inefficient underwater actuation of existing stimuli-responsive materials. Solving this challenge and devising efficient untethered manipulation of soft stimuli-responsive materials in the aquatic environment would significantly broaden their application potential in biomedical devices. We mimic locomotion modes common to sea invertebrates using monolithic liquid crystal gels (LCGs) with inherent light responsiveness and molecular anisotropy. We elicit diverse underwater locomotion modes, such as crawling, walking, jumping, and swimming, by local deformations induced by selective spatiotemporal light illumination. Our results underpin the pivotal role of the physicomechanical properties of LCGs in the realization of diverse modes of light-driven robotic underwater locomotion. We envisage that our results will introduce a toolbox for designing efficient untethered soft robots for fluidic environments.
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