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Award Status: Active
  • Institution: University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
  • DUNS: 004514360
  • PM: Markowitz, Michael
  • Most Recent Award Date: 01/29/2021
  • Number of Support Periods: 32
  • PI: Balazs, Anna
  • Current Budget Period: 02/01/2021 - 01/31/2022
  • Current Project Period: 02/01/2021 - 12/31/2023
  • Supplement Budget Period: N/A

Public Abstract


Bio-inspired Shape-morphing and Self-propelled Active Sheets

PI: Anna C. Balazs, University of Pittsburgh

Public Abstract

In nature, the energy released from enzymatic reactions “fuels” a range of mechanical processes, from metabolic events to large-scale motion. Inspired by this mode of biological chemo-mechanical transduction, the aim of the research is to design 2D catalyst-coated, flexible sheets that generate chemical energy, which propels the surrounding fluid and the immersed sheets. These systems are distinctive because the fluid not only affects the motion of the sheet, but also drives the deformable sheets to exhibit unprecedented forms of structural reconfiguration and self-organization. Furthermore, the sheets exert forces on the fluid that modify the fluid flow. Hence, the system exhibits a feedback loop that can lead to novel non-linear dynamic behavior. The studies are aimed at establishing design rules for controllably tuning this complex dynamics and thereby driving the sheets to spontaneously morph into 3D structures that perform mechanical work in fluids.

The research approach combines theory and simulation to design chemically active, flexible sheets to achieve functionality that is not possible with chemically active stationary walls or mobile hard particles. Changes in the shape, the patterning of catalysts on the sheet, and the geometry of the chamber can all influence the system’s dynamics. Clearly, computational models are necessary to probe the rich design space. These studies will develop relationships among the features of the sheet, the chemically-generated pattern of fluid flow and the sheet’s final 3D shape. With this as a foundation, the work will then examine the interactions among multiple sheets to uncover new forms of self-organization.

The findings from these studies will impact both fundamental science and technological applications. Namely, the findings will facilitate the creation of biomimetic materials that utilize chemo-mechanical energy transduction to perform useful work, including directing the assembly and collective behavior of active self-morphing sheets in solution. Moreover, the studies will provide significant insight into controlling the behavior of systems operating out of equilibrium. The advent of materials systems where a single 2D sample can morph on-demand into a variety of distinct 3D shapes has the potential to significantly simplify and improve the energy efficiency of manufacturing processes. Such reconfigurable, self-propelled sheets can also greatly expand the functionality of fluidic devices, allowing these devices to perform self-sustained operations that were previously unattainable with stationary chemical pumps or active hard particles.

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