Smart simulations chart the behavior of surprising structures | 1/23/2017 | Staff
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AMOLF researchers are studying three-dimensional prismatic structures that can assume different shapes with the aim of producing metamaterials that have multiple properties. Researchers have found a new way to simulate the deformations in such structures, and in doing so, they discovered a wide range of unexpected shapes. The results will be published today in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

It is fundamental mathematical research but also very tangible. On the desk lies a complex, origami-like construction made from plastic squares. However, when compressed, it folds up and forms a compact structure that is more similar to an apartment block with four towers. Which shapes the structure can assume is predicted by a new calculation method developed by AMOLF researchers Agustin Iniguez-Rabago, Yun li and Bas Overvelde from the Soft Robotic Matter group.

Structure - Model - Metamaterial - Hand - Iniguez-Rabago

The structure is a model for a three-dimensional mechanical metamaterial, which was built by hand by Iniguez-Rabago. Additionally, the material is multistable, which means that it can retain several shapes without exerting force on it.

"You might still remember the so-called Slap Wrap bracelets that you could throw on your wrist and that were stable in both a straight and a round shape," says AMOLF group leader Overvelde. "The structures that we have investigated show similar behavior, but with far more possibilities." However, not all the materials that the researchers work with can be intuitively understood in this manner, says Iniguez-Rabago. "For some structures, we did not expect that they would demonstrate multistable behavior. I was amazed that this simply rolled out of our new computer algorithm."

Metamaterials - Properties - Shape - Addition - Material

Metamaterials have special properties that depend on their shape in addition to the material they are made of. There are many possible applications if researchers can gain a good understanding of how the shape determines the properties. These materials could then be used as mini-robots...
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