Issue 9, 2014

Bioinspired materials that self-shape through programmed microstructures


Nature displays numerous examples of materials that can autonomously change their shape in response to external stimuli. Remarkably, shape changes in biological systems can be programmed within the material's microstructure to enable self-shaping capabilities even in the absence of cellular control. Here, we revisit recent attempts to replicate in synthetic materials the shape-changing behavior of selected natural materials displaying deliberately tuned fibrous architectures. Simple processing methods like drawing, spinning or casting under magnetic fields are shown to be effective in mimicking the orientation and spatial distribution of reinforcing fibers of natural materials, thus enabling unique shape-changing features in synthetic systems. The bioinspired design and creation of self-shaping microstructures represent a new pathway to program shape changes in synthetic materials. In contrast to shape-memory polymers and metallic alloys, the self-shaping capabilities in these bioinspired materials originate at the microstructural level rather than the molecular scale. This enables the creation of programmable shape changes using building blocks that would otherwise not display the intrinsic molecular/atomic phase transitions required in conventional shape-memory materials.

Graphical abstract: Bioinspired materials that self-shape through programmed microstructures

Article information

Article type
Review Article
10 Jul 2013
28 Aug 2013
First published
30 Aug 2013
This article is Open Access
Creative Commons BY license

Soft Matter, 2014,10, 1284-1294

Bioinspired materials that self-shape through programmed microstructures

A. R. Studart and R. M. Erb, Soft Matter, 2014, 10, 1284 DOI: 10.1039/C3SM51883C

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