Optically- and thermally-responsive programmable materials based on carbon nanotube-hydrogel polymer composites

Nano Lett. 2011 Aug 10;11(8):3239-44. doi: 10.1021/nl201503e. Epub 2011 Jul 12.


A simple approach is described to fabricate reversible, thermally- and optically responsive actuators utilizing composites of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (pNIPAM) loaded with single-walled carbon nanotubes. With nanotube loading at concentrations of 0.75 mg/mL, we demonstrate up to 5 times enhancement to the thermal response time of the nanotube-pNIPAM hydrogel actuators caused by the enhanced mass transport of water molecules. Additionally, we demonstrate the ability to obtain ultrafast near-infrared optical response in nanotube-pNIPAM hydrogels under laser excitation enabled by the strong absorption properties of nanotubes. The work opens the framework to design complex and programmable self-folding materials, such as cubes and flowers, with advanced built-in features, including tunable response time as determined by the nanotube loading.