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      Toward a New Generation of Smart Biomimetic Actuators for Architecture

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          Abstract

          Motile plant structures (e.g., leaves, petals, cone scales, and capsules) are functionally highly robust and resilient concept generators for the development of biomimetic actuators for architecture. Here, a concise review of the state-of-the-art of plant movement principles and derived biomimetic devices is provided. Achieving complex and higher-dimensional shape changes and passive-hydraulic actuation at a considerable time scale, as well as mechanical robustness of the motile technical structures, is challenging. For example, almost all currently available bioinspired hydraulic actuators show similar limitations due to the poroelastic time scale. Therefore, a major challenge is increasing the system size to the meter range, with actuation times of minutes or below. This means that response speed and flow rate need significant improvement for the systems, and the long-term performance degradation issue of hygroscopic materials needs to be addressed. A theoretical concept for "escaping" the poroelastic regime is proposed, and the possibilities for enhancing the mechanical properties of passive-hydraulic bilayer actuators are discussed. Furthermore, the promising aspects for further studies to implement tropistic movement behavior are presented, i.e., movement that depends on the direction of the triggering stimulus, which can finally lead to "smart building skins" that autonomously and self-sufficiently react to changing environmental stimuli in a direction-dependent manner.

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          Most cited references50

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          How the Venus flytrap snaps.

          The rapid closure of the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) leaf in about 100 ms is one of the fastest movements in the plant kingdom. This led Darwin to describe the plant as "one of the most wonderful in the world". The trap closure is initiated by the mechanical stimulation of trigger hairs. Previous studies have focused on the biochemical response of the trigger hairs to stimuli and quantified the propagation of action potentials in the leaves. Here we complement these studies by considering the post-stimulation mechanical aspects of Venus flytrap closure. Using high-speed video imaging, non-invasive microscopy techniques and a simple theoretical model, we show that the fast closure of the trap results from a snap-buckling instability, the onset of which is controlled actively by the plant. Our study identifies an ingenious solution to scaling up movements in non-muscular engines and provides a general framework for understanding nastic motion in plants.
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            Geometry and mechanics in the opening of chiral seed pods.

            We studied the mechanical process of seed pods opening in Bauhinia variegate and found a chirality-creating mechanism, which turns an initially flat pod valve into a helix. We studied configurations of strips cut from pod valve tissue and from composite elastic materials that mimic its structure. The experiments reveal various helical configurations with sharp morphological transitions between them. Using the mathematical framework of "incompatible elasticity," we modeled the pod as a thin strip with a flat intrinsic metric and a saddle-like intrinsic curvature. Our theoretical analysis quantitatively predicts all observed configurations, thus linking the pod's microscopic structure and macroscopic conformation. We suggest that this type of incompatible strip is likely to play a role in the self-assembly of chiral macromolecules and could be used for the engineering of synthetic self-shaping devices.
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              Self-shaping composites with programmable bioinspired microstructures.

              Shape change is a prevalent function apparent in a diverse set of natural structures, including seed dispersal units, climbing plants and carnivorous plants. Many of these natural materials change shape by using cellulose microfibrils at specific orientations to anisotropically restrict the swelling/shrinkage of their organic matrices upon external stimuli. This is in contrast to the material-specific mechanisms found in synthetic shape-memory systems. Here we propose a robust and universal method to replicate this unusual shape-changing mechanism of natural systems in artificial bioinspired composites. The technique is based upon the remote control of the orientation of reinforcing inorganic particles within the composite using a weak external magnetic field. Combining this reinforcement orientational control with swellable/shrinkable polymer matrices enables the creation of composites whose shape change can be programmed into the material's microstructure rather than externally imposed. Such bioinspired approach can generate composites with unusual reversibility, twisting effects and site-specific programmable shape changes.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Advanced Materials
                Adv. Mater.
                Wiley-Blackwell
                09359648
                October 24 2017
                :
                :
                : 1703653
                Article
                10.1002/adma.201703653
                29064124
                d6e42108-b5e8-4502-a19d-6bddfd857217
                © 2017

                http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/tdm_license_1.1

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