A reconfigurable actuator is a stimuli-responsive structure that can be programmed to adapt different shapes under identical stimulus. Reconfigurable actuators that function without control circuitry and are fueled remotely are in great demand to devise adaptive soft robotic devices. Yet, obtaining fast and reliable reconfiguration remains a grand challenge. Here we report a facile fabrication pathway towards reconfigurability, through synergistic use of photochemical and photothermal responses in light-active liquid crystal polymer networks. We utilize azobenzene photoisomerization to locally control the cis-isomer content and to program the actuator response, while subsequent photothermal stimulus actuates the structure, leading to shape morphing. We demonstrate six different shapes reconfigured from one single actuator under identical illumination conditions, and a light-fueled smart gripper that can be commanded to either grip and release or grip and hold an object after ceasing the illumination. We anticipate this work to enable all-optical control over actuator performance, paving way towards reprogrammable soft micro-robotics.
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