Programming the shape-shifting of flat soft matter: from self-rolling/self-twisting materials to self-folding origami†
Nature uses various activation mechanisms to program complex transformations in the shape and functionality of living organisms. Inspired by such natural events, we aimed to develop initially flat (i.e. two-dimensional) programmable materials that, when triggered by a stimulus such as temperature, could self-transform their shape into a complex three-dimensional geometry. A two-dimensional starting point enables full access to the surface, e.g. for (nano-)patterning purposes, which is not available in most other manufacturing techniques including additive manufacturing techniques and molding. We used different arrangements of bi- and multi-layers of a shape memory polymer (SMP) and hyperelastic polymers to program four basic modes of shape-shifting including self-rolling, self-twisting (self-helixing), combined self-rolling and self-wrinkling, and wave-like strips. The effects of various programming variables such as the thermomechanical properties of the hyperelastic layer, dimensions of the bi- and multi-layer strips, and activation temperature on the morphology of the resulting three-dimensional objects were studied experimentally and were found to cause as much as 10-fold change in the relevant dimensions. Some of the above-mentioned modes of shape-shifting were then integrated into other two-dimensional constructs to obtain self-twisting DNA-inspired structures, programmed pattern development in cellular solids, self-folding origami, and self-organizing fibers. Furthermore, the possibility of incorporating multiple surface patterns into one single piece of shape-transforming material is demonstrated using ultraviolet-cured photopolymers.