Actuators are essential components for intelligent machines that can fulfill certain tasks in response to environmental stimuli. In recent years, actuators that can transform from a 2D ribbon shape to a 3D helical configuration under certain external stimuli have attracted significant attention due to the potential applications of the targeted helical structures in springs, propulsion generation, and artificial muscles. Inspired by the chiral opening of Bauhinia variegate‘s seedpods and the coiling of the Towel Gourd tendril with perversions, researchers have made significant breakthroughs in synthesizing state-of-the-art actuators capable of mimicking helical transformations. In this review, we give a brief overview of the shape evolution mechanisms of these two plant structures and then review recent progress in the fabrication of biomimetic helical actuators. These structures are categorized by the stimuli-responsive materials involved, including hydrogels, liquid crystal networks/elastomers, shape memory polymers, and multiwall carbon nanotubes. By providing this survey on important recent advances along with our perspectives, we hope to solicit new inspirations and insights on the development and fabrication of smart actuators, as well as the future development of interdisciplinary research at the interface of physics, engineering, and biology.
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