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  1. Biological systems convert chemical energy into mechanical work by using protein catalysts that assume kinetically controlled conformational states. Synthetic chemomechanical systems using chemical catalysis have been reported, but they are slow, require high temperatures to operate, or indirectly perform work by harnessing reaction products in liquids (e.g., heat or protons). Here, we introduce a bioinspired chemical strategy for gas-phase chemomechanical transduction that sequences the elementary steps of catalytic reactions on ultrathin (<10 nm) platinum sheets to generate surface stresses that directly drive microactuation (bending radii of 700 nm) at ambient conditions (T = 20 °C; P total = 1 atm). When fueled by hydrogen gas and either oxygen or ozone gas, we show how kinetically controlled surface states of the catalyst can be exploited to achieve fast actuation (600 ms/cycle) at 20 °C. We also show that the approach can integrate photochemically controlled reactions and can be used to drive the reconfiguration of microhinges and complex origami- and kirigami-based microstructures. 
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  2. Abstract

    Understanding lattice deformations is crucial in determining the properties of nanomaterials, which can become more prominent in future applications ranging from energy harvesting to electronic devices. However, it remains challenging to reveal unexpected deformations that crucially affect material properties across a large sample area. Here, we demonstrate a rapid and semi-automated unsupervised machine learning approach to uncover lattice deformations in materials. Our method utilizes divisive hierarchical clustering to automatically unveil multi-scale deformations in the entire sample flake from the diffraction data using four-dimensional scanning transmission electron microscopy (4D-STEM). Our approach overcomes the current barriers of large 4D data analysis without a priori knowledge of the sample. Using this purely data-driven analysis, we have uncovered different types of material deformations, such as strain, lattice distortion, bending contour, etc., which can significantly impact the band structure and subsequent performance of nanomaterials-based devices. We envision that this data-driven procedure will provide insight into materials’ intrinsic structures and accelerate the discovery of materials.

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  5. Shape-memory actuators allow machines ranging from robots to medical implants to hold their form without continuous power, a feature especially advantageous for situations where these devices are untethered and power is limited. Although previous work has demonstrated shape-memory actuators using polymers, alloys, and ceramics, the need for micrometer-scale electro–shape-memory actuators remains largely unmet, especially ones that can be driven by standard electronics (~1 volt). Here, we report on a new class of fast, high-curvature, low-voltage, reconfigurable, micrometer-scale shape-memory actuators. They function by the electrochemical oxidation/reduction of a platinum surface, creating a strain in the oxidized layer that causes bending. They bend to the smallest radius of curvature of any electrically controlled microactuator (~500 nanometers), are fast (<100-millisecond operation), and operate inside the electrochemical window of water, avoiding bubble generation associated with oxygen evolution. We demonstrate that these shape-memory actuators can be used to create basic electrically reconfigurable microscale robot elements including actuating surfaces, origami-based three-dimensional shapes, morphing metamaterials, and mechanical memory elements. Our shape-memory actuators have the potential to enable the realization of adaptive microscale structures, bio-implantable devices, and microscopic robots.

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