One-piece micropumps from liquid crystalline core-shell particles

Nat Commun. 2012;3:1178. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2193.


Responsive polymers are low-cost, light weight and flexible, and thus an attractive class of materials for the integration into micromechanical and lab-on-chip systems. Triggered by external stimuli, liquid crystalline elastomers are able to perform mechanical motion and can be utilized as microactuators. Here we present the fabrication of one-piece micropumps from liquid crystalline core-shell elastomer particles via a microfluidic double-emulsion process, the continuous nature of which enables a low-cost and rapid production. The liquid crystalline elastomer shell contains a liquid core, which is reversibly pumped into and out of the particle by actuation of the liquid crystalline shell in a jellyfish-like motion. The liquid crystalline elastomer shells have the potential to be integrated into a microfluidic system as micropumps that do not require additional components, except passive channel connectors and a trigger for actuation. This renders elaborate and high-cost micromachining techniques, which are otherwise required for obtaining microstructures with pump function, unnecessary.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't