This paper reports a nontoxic, soft and electroactive hydrogel made with polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and cellulose nanocrystal (CNC). The CNC incorporating PVA-CNC hydrogels were prepared using a freeze–thaw technique with different CNC concentrations. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, thermogravimetric analysis, X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy results proved the good miscibility of CNCs with PVA. The optical transparency, water uptake capacity and mechanical properties of the prepared hydrogels were investigated in this study. The CNC incorporating PVA-CNC hydrogels showed improved displacement output in the presence of an electric field and the displacement increased with an increase in the CNC concentration. The possible actuation mechanism was an electrostatic effect and the displacement improvement of the hydrogel associated with its enhanced dielectric properties and softness. Since the prepared PVA-CNC hydrogel is nontoxic and electroactive, it can be used for biomimetic soft robots, actively reconfigurable lenses and active drug-release applications.
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