Localized soft elasticity in liquid crystal elastomers
Synthetic approaches to prepare designer materials that localize deformation, by combining rigidity and compliance in a single material, have been widely sought. Bottom-up approaches, such as the self-organization of liquid crystals, offer potential advantages over top–down patterning methods such as photolithographic control of crosslink density, relating to the ease of preparation and fidelity of resolution. Here, we report on the directed self-assembly of materials with spatial and hierarchical variation in mechanical anisotropy. The highly nonlinear mechanical properties of the liquid crystalline elastomers examined here enables strain to be locally reduced >15-fold without introducing compositional variation or other heterogeneities. Each domain (greater than or equal to0.01 mm2) exhibits anisotropic nonlinear response to load based on the alignment of the molecular orientation with the loading axis. Accordingly, we design monoliths that localize deformation in uniaxial and biaxial tension, shear, bending and crack propagation, and subsequently demonstrate substrates for globally deformable yet locally stiff electronics.