Intelligent Soft Material Curls Under Pressure

Plants and animals can rapidly respond to changes in their environment, like a Venus flytrap snapping shut when a fly touches it. Ideally, soft robots would mimic the intelligent and autonomous behaviors seen in nature, combining sensing and controlled movement. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces  have printed liquid metal circuits onto a single piece of soft polymer, creating an intelligent material that curls under mechanical pressure or stretching. They created soft actuators with embodied sensing, actuation, and control at the single-unit level, which they achieved by synergistically harnessing the mechanosensing and electrothermal properties of liquid metal to actuate the thermally responsive liquid crystal elastomer.