Photomechanical response under physiological conditions of azobenzene-containing 4D-printed liquid crystal elastomer actuators

Lorena Ceamanos, Dirk J. Mulder, Zehra Kahveci, María López-Valdeolivas, Albert P.H.J. Schenning, Carlos Sánchez-Somolinos (Corresponding author)

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12 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


Soft and mechanically responsive actuators hold the promise to revolutionize the design and manufacturing of devices in the areas of microfluidics, soft robotics and biomedical engineering. In many of these applications, the actuators need to operate in a wet environment that can strongly affect their performance. In this paper, we report on the photomechanical response in a biological buffer of azobenzene-containing liquid crystal elastomer (LCE)-based actuators, prepared by four-dimensional (4D) printing. Although the photothermal contribution to the photoresponse is largely cancelled by the heat withdrawing capacity of the employed buffer, a significant photoinduced reversible contraction, in the range of 7% of its initial length, has been achieved under load, taking just a few seconds to reach half of the maximum contraction. Effective photomechanical work performance under physiological conditions has, therefore, been demonstrated in the 4D-printed actuators. Advantageously, the photomechanical response is not sensitive to salts present in the buffer differently to hydrogels with responses highly dependent on the fluid composition. Our work highlights the capabilities of photomechanical actuators, created using 4D printing, when operating under physiological conditions, thus showing their potential for application in the microfluidics and biomedical fields.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4083-4094
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Materials Chemistry B
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The described research 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). The funding has also been received from Spanish ‘Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades (MCIU)’ through the AEI/FEDER(UE) PID2020-118485RB-I00 project, the Gobierno de Aragón project LMP221_21, FEDER (EU) and Fondo Social Europeo (DGA E47_20R). This research was also supported by CIBER -Consorcio Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red- (CB06/01/00263), Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación. C.S.-S. would like to thank the FAB3D interdisciplinary platform (PTI-CSIC) for support.


  • Liquid Crystals
  • Azo Compounds
  • Bioengineering
  • Elastomers


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