Bio-inspired magnetically controlled reversibly actuating multimaterial fibers


Movements in plants, such as the coiling of tendrils in climbing plants, have been studied as inspiration for coiling actuators in robotics. A promising approach to mimic this behavior is the use of multimaterial systems that show different elastic moduli. Here, we report on the development of magnetically controllable/triggerable multimaterial fibers (MMFs) as artificial tendrils, which can reversibly coil and uncoil on stimulation from an alternating magnetic field. These MMFs are based on deformed shape-memory fibers with poly[ethylene-co-(vinyl acetate)] (PEVA) as their core and a silicone-based soft elastomeric magnetic nanocomposite shell. The core fiber provides a temperature-dependent expansion/contraction that propagates the coiling of the MMF, while the shell enables inductive heating to actuate the movements in these MMFs. Composites with mNP weight content ≥ 15 wt% were required to achieve heating suitable to initiate movement. The MMFs coil upon application of the magnetic field, in which a degree of coiling N = 0.8 ± 0.2 was achieved. Cooling upon switching OFF the magnetic field reversed some of the coiling, giving a reversible change in coiling ∆n = 2 ± 0.5. These MMFs allow magnetically controlled remote and reversible actuation in artificial (soft) plant-like tendrils, and are envisioned as fiber actuators in future robotics applications.
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