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  1. Many natural organisms, such as fungal hyphae and plant roots, grow at their tips, enabling the generation of complex bodies composed of natural materials as well as dexterous movement and exploration. Tip growth presents an exemplary process by which materials synthesis and actuation are coupled, providing a blueprint for how growth could be realized in a synthetic system. Herein, we identify three underlying principles essential to tip-based growth of biological organisms: a fluid pressure driving force, localized polymerization for generating structure, and fluid-mediated transport of constituent materials. In this work, these evolved features inspire a synthetic materials growth process called extrusion by self-lubricated interface photopolymerization (E-SLIP), which can continuously fabricate solid profiled polymer parts with tunable mechanical properties from liquid precursors. To demonstrate the utility of E-SLIP, we create a tip-growing soft robot, outline its fundamental governing principles, and highlight its capabilities for growth at speeds up to 12 cm/min and lengths up to 1.5 m. This growing soft robot is capable of executing a range of tasks, including exploration, burrowing, and traversing tortuous paths, which highlight the potential for synthetic growth as a platform for on-demand manufacturing of infrastructure, exploration, and sensing in a variety of environments. 
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  2. Chain orientation, a natural consequence of polymer film processing, often leads to enhanced mechanical properties parallel to the machine extrusion direction (MD), while leaving the properties in the transverse direction (TD) unaffected or diminished, as compared to the unoriented material. Here, we report that mixing poly(ethylene oxide)-block-poly(butylene oxide) (PEO-PBO) diblock copolymer that forms dispersed particles in an amorphous polylactide (PLA) matrix produces uniaxially stretched blend films with enhanced toughness in both the MD and TD. Small-angle X-ray scattering experiments and visual observations revealed that the dominant deformation mechanism for blend films transitions from crazing to shear yielding in the MD as the stretching ratio increases, while crazing is the primary deformation mechanism in the TD at all stretching ratios investigated. As the films age at room temperature, crazing becomes more prevalent in the MD without compromising the improved toughness. The stretched blend films were susceptible to some degree of mechanical aging in the TD but remained fivefold tougher than stretched neat PLA films for up to 150 days. This work presents a feasible route to produce uniaxially stretched PEO–PBO/PLA films that are mechanically tough, which provides a more sustainable plastic alternative. 
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  3. null (Ed.)