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Optical and Physical Applications of Photocontrollable Materials: Azobenzene-Containing and Liquid Crystalline Polymers
Polymers 2012, 4(1), 316-340; doi:10.3390/polym4010316
Review

Nanoparticle-Liquid Crystalline Elastomer Composites

1,2
,
1
 and
1,*
1 Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, JJ Thomson Avenue, Cambridge CB3 0HE, UK 2 Department of Chemistry, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 November 2011 / Revised: 10 January 2012 / Accepted: 14 January 2012 / Published: 30 January 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Liquid Crystalline Polymers)
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Abstract

Liquid crystalline elastomers (LCEs) exhibit a number of remarkable physical effects, including a uniquely high-stroke reversible mechanical actuation triggered by external stimuli. Fundamentally, all such stimuli affect the degree of liquid crystalline order in the polymer chains cross-linked into an elastic network. Heat and the resulting thermal actuation act by promoting entropic disorder, as does the addition of solvents. Photo-isomerization is another mechanism of actuation, reducing the orientational order by diminishing the fraction of active rod-like mesogenic units, mostly studied for azobenzene derivatives incorporated into the LCE composition. Embedding nanoparticles provides a new, promising strategy to add functionality to LCEs and ultimately enhance their performance as sensors and actuators. The motivation for the combination of nanoparticles with LCEs is to provide better-controlled actuation stimuli, such as electric and magnetic fields, and broad-spectrum light, by selecting and configuring the appropriate nanoparticles in the LCE matrix. Here we give an overview of recent advances in this area with a focus on preparation, physical properties and actuation performance of the resultant nanocomposites.
Keywords: liquid crystal; elastomer; actuation; nanoparticles; nanotubes liquid crystal; elastomer; actuation; nanoparticles; nanotubes
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).
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Ji, Y.; Marshall, J.E.; Terentjev, E.M. Nanoparticle-Liquid Crystalline Elastomer Composites. Polymers 2012, 4, 316-340.

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