Organic Single‐Crystal Actuators and Waveguides that Operate at Low Temperatures
Applications in extreme conditions, such as those encountered in space exploration, require lightweight materials that can retain their elasticity in extremely cold environments. However, cryogenic treatment of most soft polymeric and elastomeric materials results in complete loss of their ability for elastic flow, whereby such materials that are normally ductile become stiff, brittle, and prone to cracking. Here, a facile method for preparation of hybrid organic crystalline materials that are not only cryogenically robust but are also capable of large, recoverable, and reversible deformation at low temperatures is reported. To that end, flexible organic crystals are first mechanically reinforced by a polymer coating and combined with a thermally responsive polymer. The resulting hybrid materials respond linearly and reversibly to temperatures from −15 to −120 °C without fatigue in air as well as in cold vacuum. The approach proposed here not only circumvents one of the main drawbacks that are inherent to the amorphous nature and has thus far limited the applications of polymeric materials at low temperatures, but it also provides a cost-effective access to a myriad of lightweight sensing, electronic, optical or actuating devices that can operate in low-temperature environmental settings.