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Coupled liquid crystalline oscillators in Huygens’ synchrony

Ghislaine Vantomme, Lars C. M. Elands, Anne Helene Gelebart, E. W. Meijer, Alexander Y. Pogromsky, Henk Nijmeijer & Dirk J. Broer

Published: 2021

Abstract

In the flourishing field of soft robotics, strategies to embody communication and collective motion are scarce. Here we report the synchronized oscillations of thin plastic actuators by an approach reminiscent of the synchronized motion of pendula and metronomes. Two liquid crystalline network oscillators fuelled by light influence the movement of one another and display synchronized oscillations in-phase and anti-phase in a steady state. By observing entrainment between the asymmetric oscillators we demonstrate the existence of coupling between the two actuators. We qualitatively explain the origin of the synchronized motion using a theoretical model and numerical simulations, which suggest that the motion can be tuned by the mechanical properties of the coupling joint. We thus anticipate that the complex synchronization phenomena usually observed in rigid systems can also exist in soft polymeric materials. This enables the use of new stimuli, featuring an example of collective motion by photo-actuation.

Full Access Link: Nature Materials