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Title: Degradation-Induced Actuation in Oxidation-Responsive Liquid Crystal Elastomers
Stimuli-responsive materials that exhibit a mechanical response to specific biological conditions are of considerable interest for responsive, implantable medical devices. Herein, we report the synthesis, processing and characterization of oxidation-responsive liquid crystal elastomers that demonstrate programmable shape changes in response to reactive oxygen species. Direct ink writing (DIW) is used to fabricate Liquid Crystal Elastomers (LCEs) with programmed molecular orientation and anisotropic mechanical properties. LCE structures were immersed in different media (oxidative, basic and saline) at body temperature to measure in vitro degradation. Oxidation-sensitive hydrophobic thioether linkages transition to hydrophilic sulfoxide and sulfone groups. The introduction of these polar moieties brings about anisotropic swelling of the polymer network in an aqueous environment, inducing complex shape changes. 3D-printed uniaxial strips exhibit 8% contraction along the nematic director and 16% orthogonal expansion in oxidative media, while printed LCEs azimuthally deform into cones 19 times their original thickness. Ultimately, these LCEs degrade completely. In contrast, LCEs subjected to basic and saline solutions showed no apparent response. These oxidation-responsive LCEs with programmable shape changes may enable a wide range of applications in target specific drug delivery systems and other diagnostic and therapeutic tools.
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National Science Foundation
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