About this Research Topic
Inspired by soft-bodied animals in nature, soft robotics provide unique characteristics such as multiple degrees of freedom (DOFs), body compliance, continuous deformation, and benign human-machine interactions. These unique attributes enable soft robots to move and operate in unstructured and unpredictable environments, where traditional rigid robots cannot. In this context, various soft actuating materials and highly deformable structures have been developed to construct soft robots. Examples include environmentally sensitive hydrogels, twisting nylon fishlines, shape memory polymers, dielectric elastomers, pneumatic and hydraulic actuators. Liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs) are one type of promising soft actuating material which is capable of generating large and reversible deformations in response to material phase transition. Versatile actuation modes have been demonstrated in previous studies.
Nevertheless, the field of LCE-based soft actuators still faces several challenges, for example, current designs are limited to complicated fabrication techniques, high phase transition temperature, slow actuation response, low power density, and low energy efficiency. These limitations can be addressed via the development of novel materials, unique structural designs, and advanced manufacturing techniques, which will be covered in this Research Topic.
This Research Topic aims to focus on the recent efforts in LCE and its applications, covering the design and fabrication of soft actuators and robotic systems; sensors; materials' development; 3D and 4D printing techniques. Original research articles (both experimental and theoretical results), review articles, short communications are invited to contribute to this Research Topic.
Potential areas for submissions to cover, include but are not limited to, the following:
• Design and fabrication of LCE-based soft actuators and robotic systems
• LCE-based sensors and their applications
• Bioinspired design of LCE-based actuators
• Novel LCE materials development for sensing and robotic applications
• 3D printing of LCE and LCE-composites
• Thermal and mechanical properties of LCE and LCE-composites
• Applications of multi-material LCE actuators in small-scale domains
Keywords: Soft Robotics, Soft Actuators, Soft Sensors, Liquid Crystal Elastomers, Smart Materials, 3D Printing
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.