Direct Ink Writing of Recyclable Supramolecular Soft Actuators

Sean J.D. Lugger, Ruth Verbroekken, Dirk Jan Mulder, Albert P.H.J. Schenning (Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Direct ink writing (DIW) of liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs) has rapidly paved its way into the field of soft actuators and other stimuli-responsive devices. However, currently used LCE systems for DIW require postprinting (photo)polymerization, thereby forming a covalent network, making the process time-consuming and the material nonrecyclable. In this work, a DIW approach is developed for printing a supramolecular poly(thio)urethane LCE to overcome these drawbacks of permanent cross-linking. The thermo-reversible nature of the supramolecular cross-links enables the interplay between melt-processable behavior required for extrusion and formation of the network to fix the alignment. After printing, the actuators demonstrated a reversible contraction of 12.7% or bending and curling motions when printed on a passive substrate. The thermoplastic ink enables recyclability, as shown by cutting and printing the actuators five times. However, the actuation performance diminishes. This work highlights the potential of supramolecular LCE inks for DIW soft circular actuators and other devices.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11
Pages (from-to)935-940
Number of pages6
JournalACS Macro Letters
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2022


The authors would like to thank Dr. Michael Debije, Prof. Dr. Rint Sijbesma, Dr. Carlos Sánchez-Somolinos, and the PRIME and SFD members for their valuable suggestions and discussions. The described research study is part of the project PRIME. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement no. 829010 (PRIME).

FundersFunder number
European Union's Horizon 2020 - Research and Innovation Framework Programme829010


    • Actuators
    • Liquid chromatography
    • Materials
    • Order
    • Plastics


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