To overcome the slow kinetics of the volume phase transition of stimuli-responsive hydrogels as platforms for soft actuators, thermally responsive comb-type hydrogels were prepared using synthesized poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) macromonomers bearing graft chains. Fast responding light-responsive hydrogels were fabricated by combining a comb-type hydrogel matrix with photothermal magnetite nanoparticles (MNP). The MNPs dispersed in the matrix provide heat to stimulate the volume change of the hydrogel matrix by converting absorbed visible light to thermal energy. In this process, the comb-type hydrogel matrix exhibited a rapid response due to the free, mobile grafted chains. The comb-type hydrogel exhibited significantly enhanced light-induced volume shrinkage and rapid recovery. The comb-type hydrogels containing MNP were successfully used to fabricate a bilayer-type photo-actuator with fast bending motion.
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