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Rubber that Moves: Modeling Liquid Crystal Elastomers

Given by: Dr. Robin L. B. Selinger,
Liquid Crystal Institute, Kent State University

Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Manning Hall room 201

Refreshments served beginning at 3:30pm in Manning Hall room 222


Liquid crystal elastomers, sometimes called "artificial muscles," stretch and contract reversibly by several hundred percent when undergoing transitions between orientationally ordered and disordered phases. Shape change may be driven by temperature, light, stress, or a variety of other stimuli, and these materials are candidates for engineering applications, e.g. as actuators, pumps, sensors, and optical components.

To model liquid crystal elastomers at the device level, we have developed a finite element simulation algorithm based on an energy functional that couples elastic strain with local mesogenic order. Using this method, we propose and simulate the performance of several elastomer-based devices, ranging from peristaltic pumps to actuators to biomimetic robots.

We have also modeled the evolution of microstructure in the soft elastic response of these materials. The goal of this simulation approach is to bridge the gap from fundamental soft condensed matter theory to materials engineering and product design. Supported by NSF-DMR-0605889.

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