Printed artificial cilia from liquid-crystal network actuators modularly driven by light

Nat Mater. 2009 Aug;8(8):677-82. doi: 10.1038/nmat2487. Epub 2009 Jun 28.


Polymeric microactuators are potentially useful in micromechanical systems and lab-on-a-chip systems. However, manufacturing of miniature polymeric actuators has been complicated owing to the necessity of including electrodes for actuation or using lithographic techniques for patterning. Here, we demonstrate that all-polymer microdevices can be fabricated using inkjet printing technology in combination with self-organizing liquid-crystal network actuators. We exploit the self-assembling properties of the liquid crystal to create large strain gradients, and light-driven actuation is chosen to allow simple and remote addressing. By using multiple inks, microactuators with different subunits are created that can be selectively addressed by changing the wavelength of the light. The actuators mimic the motion of natural cilia. These artificial cilia have the potential to create flow and mixing in wet environments such as lab-on-a-chip applications. The process is easily adapted for roll-to-roll fabrication, allowing for large-scale and low-cost production of miniaturized active polymer systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cilia / chemistry*
  • Cilia / ultrastructure
  • Light*
  • Liquid Crystals / chemistry*
  • Liquid Crystals / radiation effects
  • Microtechnology / methods
  • Miniaturization
  • Polymers / chemical synthesis*
  • Polymers / radiation effects


  • Polymers
  • liquid crystal polymer