SCIENCE CHINA Technological Sciences, Volume 62, Issue 6: 965-970(2019) https://doi.org/10.1007/s11431-018-9413-4

Light-driven artificial muscles based on electrospun microfiber yarns

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  • ReceivedOct 11, 2018
  • AcceptedDec 14, 2018
  • PublishedFeb 15, 2019


Artificial muscles are widely potential in diverse fields including medical treatment, humanoid robotics and industrial automation. Soft materials due to bio-friendly interaction are suitable for those applications. Planar and fiber shape based artificial muscles that use the polymer as substrate materials can be triggered by various stimuli like electric, moisture and heat. Here, artificial muscles based on electrospun microfiber yarns are demonstrated, which can be remotely controlled. The carbon nanotubes embedded in polyurethane microfibers enable the yarns to efficiently absorb near-infrared light and radiate heat, which induces the fast temperature change that leads to the contraction/expansion motions along the axial direction. Microfiber mats are collected by a rotating cylinder that results in highly oriented alignment. The yarns from microfiber mats are highly twisted into the coiled structure, which generates maximum contractive actuation of 6.7% at 70°C. 1000 cycles were demonstrated without an obvious decline of actuating performances. The light-driven artificial muscles can be potentially applied in wireless control, bio-medical devices and so on.

Funded by

and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities(Grant,No.,18D110308)

the National Natural Science Foundation of China(Grant,No.,51603037)

the Shanghai Natural Science Foundation(Grant,No.,15ZR1401200)

the Program for Professor of Special Appointment(Eastern,Scholar)

Program of Shanghai Academic Research Leader(Grant,No.,16XD1400100)

the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality(Grant,No.,16JC1400700)

the Innovation Program of Shanghai Municipal Education Commission(Grant,No.,2017-01-07-00-03-E00055)

and the Program of Introducing Talents of Discipline to Universities(Grant,No.,111-2-04)

the Shanghai Natural Science Foundation(Grant,No.,16ZR1401500)

the Shanghai Sailing Program(Grant,No.,16YF1400400)

the Young Elite Scientists Sponsorship Program by CAST(Grant,No.,2017QNRC001)


This work was supported by the Innovation Program of Shanghai Municipal Education Commission (Grant No. 2017-01-07-00-03-E00055), the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality (Grant No. 16JC1400700), and the Program of Introducing Talents of Discipline to Universities (Grant No. 111-2-04). Dr. HOU ChengYi thanks the Shanghai Natural Science Foundation (Grant No. 16ZR1401500), the Shanghai Sailing Program (Grant No. 16YF1400400), the Young Elite Scientists Sponsorship Program by CAST (Grant No. 2017QNRC001), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (Grant No. 18D110308).


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  • Figure 1

    (Color online) (a) Fabrication process of LDAM; SEM images of (b) PU/CNTs microfiber mats and (c) coiled PU/CNTs yarns; FE-SEM images of (d) cross-section of a single PU/CNTs microfiber and (e) embedded CNTs.

  • Figure 2

    (Color online) (a) Illustration of the helical structure before coiling process; (b) illustration of the coiled structure; (c) tensile test of microfiber mats with oriented and random distribution; (d) tensile actuation as a function of operation load.

  • Figure 3

    (Color online) (a) Schematic diagram of the experiment set up; (b) infrared thermal images and real-time photographs of LDAM under NIR light, with yellow lines indicating the relative changes of height; (c) stress-strain curves of the helically fiber (HF), coiled fiber (CF), and coiled fiber after thermal treatment (TCF); (d) tensile actuation as a function of temperature; (e) tensile actuation as a function of time under NIR light.

  • Figure 4

    (Color online) (a) Stability test of LDAM under NIR light with 1000 cycles; (b) cycle test of tensile strength under static condition.

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