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  1. null (Ed.)
    Artificial muscles based on stimuli-responsive polymers usually exhibit mechanical compliance, versatility, and high power-to-weight ratio, showing great promise to potentially replace conventional rigid motors for next-generation soft robots, wearable electronics, and biomedical devices. In particular, thermomechanical liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs) constitute artificial muscle-like actuators that can be remotely triggered for large stroke, fast response, and highly repeatable actuations. Here, we introduce a digital light processing (DLP)–based additive manufacturing approach that automatically shear aligns mesogenic oligomers, layer-by-layer, to achieve high orientational order in the photocrosslinked structures; this ordering yields high specific work capacity (63 J kg −1 ) and energy density (0.18 MJ m −3 ). We demonstrate actuators composed of these DLP printed LCEs’ applications in soft robotics, such as reversible grasping, untethered crawling, and weightlifting. Furthermore, we present an LCE self-sensing system that exploits thermally induced optical transition as an intrinsic option toward feedback control.
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 17, 2023
  3. Silica-based distributed fiber-optic sensor (DFOS) systems have been a powerful tool for sensing strain, pressure, vibration, acceleration, temperature, and humidity in inextensible structures. DFOS systems, however, are incompatible with the large strains associated with soft robotics and stretchable electronics. We develop a sensor composed of parallel assemblies of elastomeric lightguides that incorporate continuum or discrete chromatic patterns. By exploiting a combination of frustrated total internal reflection and absorption, stretchable DFOSs can distinguish and measure the locations, magnitudes, and modes (stretch, bend, or press) of mechanical deformation. We further demonstrate multilocation decoupling and multimodal deformation decoupling through a stretchable DFOS–integrated wireless glove that can reconfigure all types of finger joint movements and external presses simultaneously, with only a single sensor in real time.