Soft nanotechnology is a rapidly developing area of research that exploits principles such as self-assembly, entropy, swelling and collapse transitions, and polymeric building blocks to emulate actuation principles observed in natural systems. Unlike lithographically fabricated devices, soft nanotechnology uses much less regularly structured and largely organic materials, deriving their energy from chemical reactions and with macroscopic functionality arising from nanoscale conformational changes. In this review, some recent developments in nanostructured polymer gels and polymer brushes are discussed, which provide promising new directions for exploiting soft materials as nanoactuators.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(08)70146-9