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This paper introduces preliminary work on a UV-curable, environmentally benign and degradable elastomer, poly(glycerol sebacate itaconate), or PGSI, for use in soft robotics. A one-pot, solvent-free synthesis route using safe and inexpensive chemical reagents was developed to enable easy adoption into soft robotics labs. Material characterization of non-aged PGSI samples gave: ultimate tensile strength (UTS) ranging from 134 to 193 kPa with moduli ranging from 57 to 131 kPa and elongations at break ranging from 105 to 137 % (12 samples from 6 batches tested), and resilience values ranging from 73 to 82 % (3 samples from 3 batches tested). FTIR analysis showed a possible decrease in carbon-carbon double bonds after UV curing, evidencing a decrease in itaconic acid methylene groups from photoinitiated free radical cross-linking. NMR on the pre-polymer suggested incorporation of itaconic acid into the main polymer chain and evidence of heterogeneity of the polymer backbone resulting from glycerol bonding. An example molded soft pocket pneumatic actuator is created and briefly characterized. With further development, PGSI can be a degradable material to incorporate into temporary soft robots.
Atomic layer deposition (ALD) was used to coat cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) aerogel scaffolds with a thin conformal layer of Al2O3. Electron probe microanalysis indicates that the penetration of Al2O3 into the aerogel was greater than 50 μm. Thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) shows that Al2O3 coated CNC aerogel composites have improved temperature and oxidation resistance.
The ultimate properties of a fibrous composite system depend highly on the transverse mechanical properties of the fibers. Here, we report the size dependency of transverse elastic modulus in cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs). In addition, the mechanical properties of CNCs prepared from wood and cotton resources were investigated. Nanoindentation in an atomic force microscope (AFM) was used in combination with analytical contact mechanics modeling (Hertz model) and finite element analysis (FEA) to estimate the transverse elastic moduli (Et) of CNCs. FEA modeling estimated the results more accurately than the Hertz model. Based on the AFM–FEA calculations, wood CNCs had higher transverse elastic moduli in comparison to the cotton CNCs. Additionally, Et was shown to increase with a reduction in the CNCs’ diameter. This size-scale effect was related to the Iα/Iβ ratio and crystalline structure of CNCs.
Wood-plastic composites have been produced utilizing a phenol-formaldehyde pretreatment of the wood. The use of additives to cross link the plastics and increase the interfacial bond between the wood and plastic were also investigated. These preliminary results suggest that pretreatment of the wood with a thermosetting resin may increase the stiffness of the composite. The use of an octylphenol as a plastic compatabilizer did not reliably increase stiffness in this system, although additional study is warranted. An interaction between the wood and the polystyrene in the plastic mixture may be indicated.
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