Blanc Inter SIMI 9 - Blanc international - Sciences de l'information, de la matière et de l'ingénierie : Sciences de l'ingénierie, matériaux, procédés, énergie

Biomimetic responsive surfaces made of liquid crystalline elastomers: construction and function exploration – CURIE-TSINGHUA

Submission summary

The present project focuses on a soft lithography approach that aims at developing new biomimetic responsive surfaces made of liquid crystalline elastomers. The targeted responsive surfaces should present large and reversible changes in their surface roughness under external stimuli, which, in turn, will have very strong effects on various physical or physico-chemical properties of the surfaces: changes in adhesion, wetting properties, color to name a few.
Recently, a number of studies have been devoted to responsive surfaces processing specific properties (adhesion, wettability), which can be changed by application of some external stimuli. However, most of the surfaces underwent a reversible change of their physico-chemical properties under the action of the stimuli, with only a few examples reporting reversible changes induced by a change of roughness at the micro or/and nano scale.
Departing significantly from other related research programs, the present project describes a new approach toward the preparation of biomimetic responsive surfaces, associating smart materials (or stimuli-responsive materials) with a soft lithography technique called replica molding.
Smart materials are materials, which respond by a change in shape and/or size to an external stimulus. Polymers play a leading role in the domain of smart materials, also called actuators or “artificial muscles”. Many actuators based on polymers have been developed and, among them, liquid crystalline elastomers (LCEs). LCEs are a very attractive kind of smart material, which, in proper conditions, can contract reversibly of several hundred percents under the action of various stimuli, mainly thermal and photochemical. On the other hand, soft lithography and more specifically replica molding has been developed recently by Whitesides’ group. In short, it consists in coating the solid surface to be duplicated with a liquid mixture of poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) elastomer precursors, which transform with time in a PDMS soft elastomer without shrinkage. The PDMS elastomer being non-sticky, the mold could be peeled off from the surface, producing a negative replicate of the micro and nano relief present on the “mother” surface. This technique was originally developed to replicate hard inorganic surfaces but has been extended to almost any surface, including surfaces of biological origin such as leave surfaces, butterfly wing surfaces, etc. Combining the two domains and using appropriate experimental conditions, could give biomimetic responsive surfaces made of LCEs.
To reach this goal, the project will rely on the expertise’s brought in by the 3 partners in the field of: (i) molecular design and synthesis of liquid crystalline monomers, crosslinkers and elastomers; (ii) structural characterization of the biomimetic responsive surfaces via environmental scanning electron microscopy and in situ visualization of the surface evolution of the surfaces under thermal stimulus; (iii) preparation of the PDMS molds from selected mother surfaces of biological origin; (iiii) selection of the most interesting mother surfaces according to the potential applications expected: superhydrophobic surfaces (leaf surface), reflective properties (butterfly wing, exoskeleton of beetle), etc.
The 3 participating partners have currently established successful collaborations with already published papers.

Project coordination


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.



Help of the ANR 179,247 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 36 Months

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