Active elastic sheets

The ability to translate chemical cues into mechanical action is a defining feature of living organisms. Inspired to create materials that exhibit analogous ``life-like” behavior, we focus on chemically active two dimensional sheets which is driven by self-induced fluid flows. In contrast to active hard spheres, a two dimensional sheet is sufficiently flexible that the flowing fluid drives not only the propulsion, but also the shape evolution of the sheet, transforming the 2D layer into a moving, three dimensional object. Moreover, the transported, evolving sheet affects the flow of the surrounding fluid. Hence, chemically active materials of higher dimensionality and increased flexibility can exhibit rich, cooperative interactions.

Self-morphing of active 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. We use catalyst-coated elastic sheets to generate controllable fluid flows, which transform the sheets into complex 3D shapes. 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.
Manna et al, Mater. Horiz. 7, 2314 (2020)

Self-oscillatory behavior of active sheets

Self-oscillating systems are resplendent in biology, enabling the beating of the heart, and the self-organization of slime mold. Through modeling, we design bio-inspired materials systems that spontaneously form shape-changing, self-oscillators, which communicate to synchronize both their temporal and spatial behavior. The distinctive combination of the hydrodynamic, fluid-structure, and steric interactions causes two sheets to form coupled oscillators, whose motion is synchronized in time and space. This breadth of dynamic behavior expands the functionality of the coupled oscillators, enabling soft robots to display a variety of self-sustained, self-regulating moves.
Manna et al, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 118, 12 (2021)

Self-rotation of active sheets

The intertwining of strands into three-dimensional spirals is ubiquitous in biology, enabling functions from information storage to maintenance of cell structure and directed locomotion. Through computational modeling, we designed immobile and mobile catalyst-coated surfaces in a fluidic microchamber to orchestrate the spontaneous intertwining of 2D flexible sheets into a self-rotating 3D spiral. The results provide guidelines for regulating the spatiotemporal self-organization of flexible layers into hierarchically structured, dynamic 3D objects without use of externally applied power.