Turns out, corrugated materials have a groovy superpower: shape-shifting! They’re multistable, which means they can be buckled and bent into a variety of three-dimensional shapes, such as spirals and helices, that hold their form indefinitely without support—but they can also be reshaped over and over without breaking. Anne Meeussen, now a postdoctoral researcher in soft matter physics at Harvard University, helped discover the phenomenon during her PhD studies with Martin van Hecke at Leiden University in the Netherlands.
Meeussen and van Hecke proved the concept behind multistability with grooved sheets of plastic, but Meeussen says it works with paper and other types of thin, flexible materials as well. What’s important is that the material has a texture with the right amount of inherent curvature and elastic energy. Multistable materials could come in handy for making tents, vascular stents, shape-shifting robots, and more. The research was published in Nature (2023, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-023-06353-5).
Credit: Anne Meeussen/Nature
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