Michał Zmyślony – ESR 7





Michał Zmyślony obtained his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Physics from University of Warsaw in 2019 and 2021 respectively. During his studies he has worked on combining optics and liquid crystal elastomers to create a new method of fabrication of elements out of LCEs directly on top of optical fibres and then providing a theoretical framework for understanding their deformations.

He joined STORM-BOTS in September 2021 as ESR7 at the University of Cambridge to search for director patterns that are useful in practical applications. The design of the LCE patterns will require not only understanding the theory but also knowing the limitations of currently available fabrication methods, as the pattern is only as good as we can fabricate it.

Research interests

Liquid crystal elastomers, incompatible growth, rod-like actuators

Research project: ESR 7 – Putting Gauss Curvature to Work

The soft, anisotropic materials of the project, liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs) and glasses, contract along their director on heating/illumination. LCEs are also exquisitely programable materials: a flat LCE sheet may be prepared with any desired spatial director pattern written into it. On actuation, this director encodes a pattern of contraction which will change the metric of the sheet and morph it into a curved surface. Such “metric mechanics” allows the sheet to actuate into a surface which bears Gaussian curvature (e.g. a spherical cap or a cone) and hence cannot be flattened without energetically prohibitive stretch. Patterned LCE sheets can thus form powerful monolithic machines, which perform useful tasks as they actuate. In this project, we will design LCE patterns to create strong lifters, grabbers, manipulators, microfluidic pumps/valves.

The student will combine differential geometry, computation and micro-mechanics to elucidate the fundamental mechanics and design of programmed LCE sheets. The aim is to actually design and optimize director patterns for sheets for the above elements, and other components of soft robotics. There will also be secondments with experienced experimental partners: at Preceyes (Netherlands; Beelen), in Tampere (Finland; Arri Primägi) and Eindhoven (Netherlands; Dick Broer, Danqing Liu), to fabricate and test the resultant LCE patterns.

Beyond simple LCE sheets, the student will also be encouraged to search for further applications and novel mechanics in the area of composite LC/non-LC solid assemblies leading to instabilities, snapping, encapsulation and novel, non-isometric origami. There is also the opportunity to collaborate with the emerging in-house experimental effort in Cambridge.

PhD programme – University: University of Cambridge, Department of Engineering