Elastomers (LCE) is a radically new polymer system, akin to rubber, but
with remarkable and unexpected properties that stem from its intricate
molecular structure. This structure creates local anisotropy axis, which can
rotate separately and independently of the rubber-elastic matrix. This leads to
two main effects, each of which promises ground-breaking applications and
devices: LCE reversibly contract and expand on heating and cooling, changing
the length by a huge amount – up to 100-200%. This mechanical actuation allows
us to design an LCE engine working on a difference in temperature between two
containers, or a tactile display (e.g. Braille) switching pixels on focused
signal. The other feature of LCE has a name “soft elasticity”, when certain
deformations occur without elastic resistance. This leads to anomalous
mechanical damping and applications in vibration isolation, and also to an
enhanced adhesion that could be reversibly switched off by heating.
First invented in 1980s and 90s, LCEs are only beginning to penetrate into the industrial applications and design. CSP team members have been at the very beginning of this development, and we are now developing marketable LCE applications in vibration isolation, reversible grippers, microfluidics, and LCE engine converting waste heat into useful work.