New Totimorphic Material Can Morph Into Almost Any Shape

Harvard researchers are paving the way for a new type of multifunctional material that could be used in a range of applications.

Cabe Atwell
a month agoSensors
The material can take and hold any possible shape and paves the way to a new functional material that could be used in many applications, including robotics, architecture and more. (📷: Harvard)

Researchers at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a new shape-shifting material capable of assuming and holding any shape, paving the way for a functional material that could have applications in robotics architecture and biotechnology. The researchers explain that developing materials capable of morphing into any shape relies on conformability and rigidity – two contradictory material states.

The problem with those states makes it difficult for materials to act in a stable manner. Too much conformability makes it difficult to maintain new shapes, while too much rigidity will make it impossible for materials to create new shapes. To that end, the researchers created a neutrally stable material that combines the strength of both states without their limiting factor. The researchers liken the material to Pixar’s “Lamp” that pops up at the beginning of their movies. “The Pixar lamp head is stable in any position because the force of gravity is always counteracted by springs that stretch and compress in a coordinated way, regardless of the lamp configuration,” professor L. Mahadevan stated in a recent article.

Known as totimorphic material, the platform is created using “cells,” which can twist into a helix, curve upward, morph into shapes and even bear weight using movable struts, springs and naturally stable joints. Considering that the new material is grounded in geometry, it could be scaled for use for any number of applications, including sensors for robotics and biotechnologies, or to create stable architectures for buildings that go beyond simple walls and curves.

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