Semi-Crystalline Rubber as a Light-Responsive, Programmable, Resilient Robotic Material

Qi Yang, Hamed Shahsavan, Zixuan Deng, Hongshuang Guo, Hang Zhang, Heng Liu*, Chunyu Zhang, Arri Priimagi, Xuequan Zhang, Hao Zeng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
52 Downloads (Pure)


Polymers with large and reversible light-induced deformation offer a plethora of opportunities for the wireless control of small-scale soft robots. However, their widespread adoption in real-world applications is hindered, mainly due to their intrinsic softening upon illumination. Such limitation has detrimental effects on the achievable stress, durability, and precise positional control of the soft actuators after multiple cycles of use. Here, a synthetic rubber from a polybutadiene-polyethylene copolymer is reported as a durable material for light-controlled soft robots. The rubber can be programmed to exhibit various deformation modes controlled by visible-to-infrared light through a photothermal effect. Semi-crystallinity of polyethylene within the rubbery network provides this material with a remarkable modulus at high temperatures (2.5 MPa at 100–140 °C), deformation repeatability (>90%) and shape-recovery (>98%) after 100 actuation cycles subject to loads ranging from 10 to 10 000 times of its body weight (1.4 kPa–1.4 MPa). Soft robotic applications are demonstrated, such as thermally-driven jumping and photo-driven cargo transport carrying up to 1200 times its own weight. The results expand the portfolio of materials in designing remotely-controlled, robust, and resilient soft robots working at small scales.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2206939
JournalAdvanced Functional Materials
Issue number41
Early online date5 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • copolymers
  • light driven
  • locomotion
  • photo-actuations
  • soft robots
  • synthetic rubber


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