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Non‐Equilibrium, Light‐Adaptive, Steady‐State Reconfiguration of Mechanical Patterns in Bioinspired

Read the full article here: Adv. Funct. Mater. 1905309 (2019).

Bioinspired nanocomposites have made great progress for the fabrication of mechanical high‐performance structural materials, but their properties have thus far been engineered with a focus on static behavior. This contrasts profoundly with the dynamic reconfiguration often observed in living tissues. Here, a first concept is introduced for steady‐state, light‐adaptive reconfiguration of mechanical patterns in bioinspired nanocomposites under dissipative out‐of‐equilibrium conditions. This is realized for green, waterborne cellulose nanofibril/polymer nanopapers by achieving a heterogeneous activation of a photothermal effect. To this end, predefined mechanical patterns are designed by top‐down lamination of bottom‐up engineered bioinspired nanocomposites containing thermoreversible hydrogen bonds, as well as spatially selectively incorporated single‐walled carbon nanotubes for photothermal response. Global irradiation leads to localized photothermal softening by cascading light to heat, and to the dynamization and breakage of the thermoreversible supramolecular bonds, leading to macroscopic reconfiguration and even inversion of mechanical stiff/soft patterns. The altered configuration is only stable in a dissipative steady state and relaxes to the ground state once light is removed. The strategy presents a new approach harnessing the capabilities from top‐down and bottom‐up structuring, and by interfacing it with non‐equilibrium adaptivity concepts, it opens avenues for hierarchical bioinspired materials with anisotropic response in global fields.

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