Graphene oxide composite fibers muscle in

Soft materials promise more dexterous, sensitive robotics but soft actuators are limited in strength and power density. Now researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have fabricated meter-long composite fibers combining graphene oxide (GO) nanosheets with flexible, conductive polymers that can achieve mechanical strength, toughness, and actuation that surpasses biological muscles [Gao et al., Materials Today … Read more

Engineered Magic: Wooden Seed Carriers Mimic the Behavior of Self-Burying Seed

How seeds implant themselves in soil can seem magical. During rain or high humidity, the corkscrew-like stalk of Erodium unwinds and twists the seed into the soil, where it can take root and is safe from hungry birds and harsh environmental conditions. Inspired by Erodium’s magic, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University collaborated with Syracuse University, … Read more

Kirigami Structures Pull Water from the Air

Climate change is forcing us to reshape our relationship with water. Collecting atmospheric water could help us adapt to both severe dry spells and inundating amounts of precipitation by providing a source of freshwater or dehumidifying humid places. The Yang lab and collaborators have created a kirigami device utilizing the geometry of simple materials to … Read more

Kirigami Breast Reconstruction

For many breast cancer patients, the road to recovery may present hidden complications related to breast reconstruction following a mastectomy. The insertion of implants can lead to implant malposition, a condition that affects a significant number of patients even years after surgery. Now, the Yang lab and collaborators have used the principles of a papercutting … Read more

Snapping metacaps propel soft robot design

When a metacap “snaps”, it pops open and closed, pushing air back and forth. This snapping allows a soft robot to propel and grip without any electronics. The new ribbed metacaps permit unprecedented levels of control and speed, enabling robots delicate enough to gently grasp a ripe strawberry and powerful enough to swim through choppy, … Read more

Cut or No Cut: Algorithm for 2D-to-3D Engineering Integrates Art, Nature and Science

The team’s work takes inspiration from kirigami, an East Asian papercutting art, to create a mathematically sound method of cutting and stacking flat materials into durable curved objects. The advance addresses a longstanding blind spot at the intersection of mechanical engineering and materials science: Hardwearing materials with high mechanical integrity lose strength when manipulated into … Read more

Turning Buildings into Carbon Storage Structures

The University of Pennsylvania will receive $2.4M in funding from the US Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) HESTIA program, which prioritizes overcoming barriers associated with carbon-storing buildings, including scarce, expensive and geographically limited building materials. In collaboration with Texas A&M University, The City College of New York, KieranTimberlake, and Sika, we will … Read more

Twisted Soft Robots Navigate Mazes Autonomously

Twisted liquid crystal elastomer ribbon

Autonomy is crucial for soft robotics that are constructed of soft materials. It remains challenging to create autonomous soft robots that can intelligently interact with and adapt to changing environments without external controls. Prof. Jin Yin’s lab from North Carolina State University collaborated with Prof. Yang to develop such kind of autonomous soft robots by … Read more

Universal inverse design of surfaces with thin nematic elastomer sheets

Making Faces (red) graphic

The Yang lab and collaborators transform a two-dimension sheets made from liquid crystal elastomers into complex three-dimensional geometries, such as a human face, with heat. This work outlines an explicit protocol for preprogramming any desired 3D shape into a 2D liquid crystal elastomer (LCE) sheet. Namely, given an arbitrary 3D design, we show how to … Read more