Chemically controlled shape-morphing of elastic sheets†
Two-dimensional responsive materials that change shape into complex three-dimensional structures are valuable for creating systems ranging from wearable electronics to soft robotics. Typically, the final 3D structure is unique and predetermined through the materials’ processing. Here, we use theory and simulation to devise a distinctive approach for driving shape changes of 2D elastic sheets in fluid-filled microchambers. The sheets are coated with catalyst to generate controllable fluid flows, which transform the sheets into complex 3D shapes. A given shape can be achieved by patterning the arrangement of the catalytic domains on the sheet and introducing the appropriate reactant to initiate a specific catalytic reaction. Moreover, a single sheet that encompasses multiple catalytic domains can be transformed into a variety of 3D shapes through the addition of one or more reactants. Materials systems that morph on-demand into a variety of distinct structures can simplify manufacturing processes and broaden the utility of soft materials.