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The machine is the material: Structures that mimic one-dimensional thermoelastic materials

Isaac.Chenchiah's picture

Matthew P. O'Donnell, Jonathan P. Stacey, Isaac V. Chenchiah, Alberto Pirrera

Materials that behave like machines, e.g. functional materials that are able to change shape in response to external stimuli (Bhattacharya and James, 2005), often do so by exploiting phase transitions. Shape memory materials and the tail sheath of Bacteriophage T4 are two well-known examples. For the resulting machine to be effective, the material needs to have desirable and tunable properties. Developing such materials has proven to be an endeavour which requires considerable expertise in materials science, engineering and mathematics (Zhang et al., 2009).

Here, we reverse this approach by instead designing a machine that acts as a material. Our methodology is independent of characteristic length, allowing us to design behaviour from the architected material through to the macroscopic scale. Specifically, we present thermally-actuated structures whose effective continuum behaviour is that of one-dimensional thermoelastic materials. We show that these structures may possess a range of behaviours, such as shape memory, zero or negative thermal expansivity. Moreover, the amplitude of the behaviour, e.g. length change at critical temperature or magnitude of thermal expansivity, can exceed what is attainable through conventional materials. Seemingly incompatible features, such as low barriers to transformation and stiffness across high elongations, can be combined; the designer can independently control the critical heating and cooling temperatures and eliminate hysteresis, if desired; changes in length can be either continuous or discontinuous; and shape memory can be combined with negative thermal expansivity.

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