While most of the devices have a unique form optimized for a given function, there is a need for reconfigurable devices. We demonstrated that the use of highly deformable materials in novel structural layouts gives the opportunity to develop a new class of active structures that sense the surroundings and tune their shape and properties in response to external stimuli.
Adaptive structures allowing drastic shape changes offer unique opportunities for the design of reconfigurable devices. In 1960's R. Buckminster Fuller introduced Jitterbug which enables the morphing between octahedron and cuboctahedron, thereby imparting flexibility to otherwise rigid grid-structures. Since then a robust set of rules has been determined for the design of deployable structures that fully close in their collapsed state. One drawback of these configurations towards practical applications is that the deformation is localized at the joints between the rigid members, requiring a large number of hinges and rotating elements.
Although traditionally instabilities have been viewed as an inconvenience, buckling need not to be deleterious: buckling plays an important role in the morphogenesis of some plant parts; the surface pattern of a dehydrated fruit is dominated by buckling. Inspired by nature researchers have recently demonstrated instabilities to be instrumental in controlling adhesion, facilitating flexible electronics, fabricating micro-fluidic structures, controlling surface wettability, providing means for micro- and nano-patterning and designing optical micro-devices, designing active micro-hydrogel devices.
Inspired by the Venus flytrap which uses both a swelling mechanism and buckling behavior to increase the speed of leave motility, we are investigating the interplay between soft materials, their capability of undergoing large deformations in response to diverse stimuli, periodic porous microstructures and instabilities to design a new class of responsive adaptive devices over a wide range of length scales, from reconfigurable buildings to photonic devices.