This series of images shows the transformation of a 4D-printed hydrogel composite
structure after its submersion in water. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University
(January 25, 2016) Materials science and mathematics combine to enable the printing of shapeshifting architectures that mimic the natural movements of plants
A team of scientists at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has evolved their microscale 3D printing technology to the fourth dimension, time. Inspired by natural structures like plants, which respond and change their form over time according to environmental stimuli, the team has unveiled 4D-printed hydrogel composite structures that change shape upon immersion in water.
"This work represents an elegant advance in programmable materials assembly, made possible by a multidisciplinary approach," said Jennifer Lewis, Sc.D., senior author on the new study. "We have now gone beyond integrating form and function to create transformable architectures."
Lewis is a Core Faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). L. Mahadevan, Ph.D., a Wyss Core Faculty member as well as the Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and Professor of Physics at Harvard University and Harvard SEAS, is a co-author on the study. Their team also includes co-author, Ralph Nuzzo, Ph.D., the G.L. Clark Professor of Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.