Innervated, Self-Sensing Liquid Crystal Elastomer Actuators with Closed Loop Control

The programmable assembly of innervated LCE actuators (iLCEs) with prescribed contractile actuation, self-sensing, and closed loop control via core–shell 3D printing is reported. This extrusion-based direct ink writing method enables coaxial filamentary features composed of pure LM core surrounded by an LCE shell, whose director is aligned along the print path. Specifically, the thermal response of the iLCE fiber-type actuators is programmed, measured, and modeled during Joule heating, including quantifying the concomitant changes in fiber length and resistance that arise during simultaneous heating and self-sensing. Due to their reversible, high-energy actuation and their resistive feedback, it is also demonstrated that iLCEs can be regulated with closed loop control even when perturbed with large bias loads. Finally, iLCE architectures capable of programmed, self-sensing 3D shape change with closed loop control are fabricated.

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