Responsive materials1,2,3 have been used to generate structures with built-in complex geometries4,5,6, linear actuators7,8,9 and microswimmers10,11,12. These results suggest that complex, fully functional machines composed solely from shape-changing materials might be possible13. Nonetheless, to accomplish rotary motion in these materials still relies on the classical wheel and axle motifs. Here we explore geometric zero-energy modes to elicit rotary motion in elastic materials in the absence of a rigid wheel travelling around an axle. We show that prestrained polymer fibres closed into rings exhibit self-actuation and continuous motion when placed between two heat baths due to elastic deformations that arise from rotational-symmetry breaking around the rod's axis. Our findings illustrate a simple but robust model to create active motion in mechanically prestrained objects.
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The authors acknowledge the Micro Nano Mechanics at ICS for providing the DMTA facility and thank A. Dutta for useful comments. This work was supported in part by the ANR grant Integrations.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Supplementary Video Legends 1–7, Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Figures 1–13 and Supplementary References
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Baumann, A., Sánchez-Ferrer, A., Jacomine, L. et al. Motorizing fibres with geometric zero-energy modes. Nature Mater 17, 523–527 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-018-0062-0
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