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Title: Robust Three‐Component Elastomer–Particle–Fiber Composites with Tunable Properties for Soft Robotics
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Award ID(s):
1663658 2006430
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Advanced Intelligent Systems
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  2. Abstract

    Liquid‐metal embedded elastomers (LMEEs) have been demonstrated to show a variety of excellent properties, including high toughness, dielectric constant, and thermal conductivity, with applications across soft electronics and robotics. However, within this scope of use cases, operation in extreme environments – such as high‐temperature conditions – may lead to material degradation. While prior works highlight the functionality of LMEEs, there is limited insight on the thermal stability of these soft materials and how the effects of liquid metal (LM) inclusions depend on temperature. Here, the effects on thermal stability, including mechanical and electrical properties, of LMEEs are introduced. Effects are characterized for both fluoroelastomer and other elastomer‐based composites at temperature exposures up to 325 °C, where it is shown that embedding LM can offer improvements in thermo‐mechanical stability. Compared to elastomer like silicone rubber that has been previously used for LMEEs, a fluoroelastomer matrix offers a higher dielectric constant and significant improvement in thermo‐mechanical stability without sacrificing room temperature properties, such as thermal conductivity and modulus. Fluoroelastomer‐LM composites offer a promising soft, multi‐functional material for high‐temperature applications, which is demonstrated here with a printed, soft heat sink and an endoscopic sensor capable of wireless sensing of high temperatures.

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  3. Abstract

    Lightweight and elastically deformable soft materials that are thermally conductive are critical for emerging applications in wearable computing, soft robotics, and thermoregulatory garments. To overcome the fundamental heat transport limitations in soft materials, room temperature liquid metal (LM) has been dispersed in elastomer that results in soft and deformable materials with unprecedented thermal conductivity. However, the high density of LMs (>6 g cm−3) and the typically high loading (⩾85 wt%) required to achieve the desired properties contribute to the high density of these elastomer composites, which can be problematic for large‐area, weight‐sensitive applications. Here, the relationship between the properties of the LM filler and elastomer composite is systematically studied. Experiments reveal that a multiphase LM inclusion with a low‐density phase can achieve independent control of the density and thermal conductivity of the elastomer composite. Quantitative design maps of composite density and thermal conductivity are constructed to rationally guide the selection of filler properties and material composition. This new multiphase material architecture provides a method to fine‐tune material composition to independently control material and functional properties of soft materials for large‐area and weight‐sensitive applications.

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  4. Abstract

    Liquid metal (LM) composites, which consist of LM droplets dispersed in highly deformable elastomers, have recently gained interest as a multifunctional material for soft robotics and electronics. The incorporation of LM into elastic solids allows for unique combinations of material properties such as high stretchability with thermal and electrical conductivity comparable to metals. However, it is currently a challenge to incorporate LM composites into integrated systems consisting of diverse materials and components due to a lack of adhesion control. Here, a chemical anchoring methodology to increase adhesion of LM composites to diverse substrates is presented. The fracture energy increases up to 100× relative to untreated surfaces, with values reaching up to 7800 J m−2. Furthermore, the fracture energy, tensile modulus, and thermal conductivity can be tuned together by controlling the microstructure of LM composites. Finally, the bonding technique is used to integrate LM composites with functional electronic components without encapsulation or clamping, allowing for extreme deformations while maintaining exceptional thermal and electrical conductivity. These findings can accelerate the adoption of LM composites into complex soft robotic and electronic systems where strong, reliable bonding between diverse materials and components is required.

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