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Shape and chirality transitions in off-axis twist nematic elastomer ribbons.


Using both experiments and finite element simulations, we explore the shape evolution of off-axis twist nematic elastomer ribbons as a function of temperature. The elastomers are prepared by cross-linking the mesogens with planar anchoring of the director at top and bottom surfaces with a 90° left-handed twist. Shape evolution depends sensitively on the off-axis director orientation at the sample midplane. Both experiments and theoretical studies show that when the director at midplane is parallel to either the ribbon's long or short axes, ribbons form either helicoids or spirals depending on aspect ratio and temperature. Simulation studies show that if the director at midplane is off-axis, ribbons never form helicoids, instead evolving to distorted spiral shapes. Experimental studies for two samples with off-axis geometry show agreement with this prediction. Samples in all these geometries show a remarkable transition from right- to left-handed chiral shapes on change of temperature. Simulations predict off-axis samples also change their macroscopic chirality at fixed temperature, depending on the angular offset. These results provide insight into the mechanisms driving shape evolution and macroscopic chirality, enabling engineering design of these materials for future applications.