A liquid crystalline elastomer incorporating a mesogenic derivative of the 2,6-bisbenzimidazolylpyridine (Bip) ligand has been prepared, and its shape memory and actuating properties have been studied. The reversible liquid crystal to isotropic transition is utilized as the switching mechanism for these stimuli-responsive materials. As such, this material exhibits soft shape memory; that is, flexibility is retained in both the permanent and temporary shapes. In addition to the thermal shape memory/actuating properties exhibited by most liquid crystalline elastomers, the incorporation of the metal ion-binding Bip mesogen into the backbone of the network imparts both (i) photoresponsive properties, via a photothermal conversion process, and (ii) metal-ion-triggered shape recovery/actuation to the material. For the latter process, it is proposed that the metal-binding event induces liquid crystalline to isotropic transition in this material at room temperature, resulting in actuation/recovery of the permanent shape.
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