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7 June 2000 Electrically activated artificial muscles made with liquid crystal elastomers
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Composites of monodomain nematic liquid crystal elastomers and a conducting material distributed within their network are shown to exhibit large deformations, i.e. contraction, expansion, bending with strains of over 200% and appreciable force, by Joule heating through electrical activation. The electrical activation of the conducting material induces a rapid Joule heating in the sample leading to a nematic to isotropic phase transition where the elastomer of dimensions 32 mm x 7 mm x 0.4 mm contracted in less than a second. The cooling process, isotropic to nematic transition where the elastomer expands back to its original length, was slow and took 8 seconds. The material studied here is a highly novel liquid crystalline co-elastomer, invented and developed by Heino Finkelmann and co-workers at Albert-Ludwigs-Universitaet in Freiburg, Germany. The material is such that in which the mesogenic units are in both the side chains and the main chains of the elastomer. This co-elastomer was then mechanically loaded to induce a uniaxial network anisotropy before the cross-linking reaction was completed. These samples were then made into a composite with a conducting material such as dispersed silver particles or graphite fibers. The final samples was capable of undergoing more than 200% reversible strain in a few seconds.
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Mohsen Shahinpoor "Electrically activated artificial muscles made with liquid crystal elastomers", Proc. SPIE 3987, Smart Structures and Materials 2000: Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD), (7 June 2000);

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