Self-deformable materials have great potential for the future of materials science. One area where these materials can greatly affect human society is architecture. A recent study published in Advanced Science magazine demonstrated new manufacturing techniques that transform traditional building materials into promising smart, self-deformable materials.
Research: Shaped by internal material frustration: Turn to architectural style. Photo Credit: Narin Nonthamand/Shutterstock.com
Creating self-deformable materials for industrial applications can draw inspiration from nature. In nature, many shape-deformed materials in which matter becomes a complex and smooth surface are abundant in nature, but this phenomenon has not been studied as a model for material design until recently.
The study of naturally deforming materials and structures has produced information about morphological changes in which flat plates form complex three-dimensional structures. The natural structure achieves this in a quantitatively controlled manner.
Schematic catalogue of possible geometries in frustrated ceramics and frustrated composite materials, showing the material structure (left column), reference metrics and reference curvatures (middle column) and result configurations (right column) in different ranges: stretch dominance (left) And the curved dominance system (right). (See the physical example in Figure S3 in the support information). Frustrated composite material A) Incompatible shell made of two layers of unidirectional fibers. B, C) Non-Euclidean board, made of a layer of patterned unidirectional fibers sandwiched between two isotropic epoxy resin layers. Frustrated ceramics: D) Incompatible shell made of two bonding layers of high shrinkage ceramic (white) and low shrinkage ceramic (black). E) Three-layer structure, the low-shrinkage ceramic is sandwiched between two layers of high-shrinkage ceramics with opposite grooves, resulting in belt distortion. Image source: Blonder, A & Sharon, E, Advanced Materials
Research in this field is of scientific importance for its application in biological systems and nanotechnology, but outside of these fields, they have room for industry. Due to the minimal energy usage and effort required to manufacture complex curved surfaces, deformable materials have the potential for industrial design and construction. At present, these applications are limited, and the main material being explored is a small-sized double-layer structure that undergoes uniaxial bending.
If the technology is to be fully realized for this purpose, it is necessary to further explore materials that can deform themselves into complex three-dimensional shapes and curvatures through the geometric frustration of architectural applications.
The focus of the research is to inject shape-deformation properties into fiber composite materials and clay (two traditional building materials), which proves the possibility of using materials commonly used in the construction industry to make smart, self-deformable materials. The controlled experiment verifies the quantitative relationship between the small-scale structure of the material and the global three-dimensional surface.
The team used so-called "model" materials in the laboratory to demonstrate and develop theories of incompatible sheets. These materials include nematic elastomers, gels and elastomers. The results show that the properties of these materials do not meet the specific requirements of the construction industry, such as robustness, strength, stiffness, durability, cost and standard dimensions. Therefore, new materials must be developed to meet these needs.
The effect of magnification and gravity on FC samples. a) The total surface rotation and the diameter of the disk measured for a freely hanging disk (negligible effects of gravity). The 2-layer (hollow square) disc with a constant thickness exhibits a linear increase in total surface rotation, as shown in the illustration. A disc with a proportionally varying thickness (solid circle) exhibits a constant surface rotation, that is, maintains its shape when scaled. b) The local curvature (not negligible gravitational effect) measured in the main direction in which the disc is placed horizontally, as a function of the normalized distance from the center of the disc. Although the curvature is approximately constant in a disc with a proportionally varying thickness (solid circle), the two-layer (hollow square) disc with a constant thickness is flattened at its center by its own weight. Disc diameter: 800 mm red; 600 mm yellow; 400 mm purple. Illustration: Images of 800mm zoomed (top) and unscaled (bottom) discs. Image source: Blonder, A & Sharon, E, Advanced Materials
The reason why ceramic and fiber composite materials were chosen for research is that they are used in the construction industry as thin sheets for conventional use in cladding and other applications. Another characteristic that makes them attractive targets for self-deformable materials is the volume change they undergo during the manufacturing process.
Shrinkage was previously regarded as an undesirable characteristic of construction resins and composites, but it is a key characteristic of these self-deformable materials because it helps to achieve a wider range of structures and scales.
In addition, it demonstrates the scalability of the structure, including a way to help them cope with the effects of their own weight. In addition, the team also proposed a method to construct fiber composite materials with complex curvature distribution.
In addition, the research explored the need for appropriate design tools, where theories can be used to create complex 3D surfaces. There are indeed physical simulation tools, but these tools are not suitable for the design community’s desire to create complex 3D shapes. Demonstrated a software interface that allows calculation of the fiber distribution required to create complex 3D shapes and 3D surfaces with a given fiber pattern.
This study shows that it is feasible to use 3D self-deformable materials on a large scale in construction. The author of the study stated that it should serve as a proof of principle, and the researchers pointed out that various topics need to be studied and optimized before these materials can be used in the construction industry.
The requirements of the construction industry for the sustainable manufacturing of materials including complex curved materials are urgent and urgent. Manufacturing technology may be resource-intensive, and the impact of mold-based manufacturing needs to be addressed and reduced. Currently, alternative technologies are being explored, such as active bending and forming active molds.
Design and manufacture complex curved panels by pixelation method a) Make panels based on the top and bottom maps, with colored tiles indicating fiber direction (black-x alignment; white-y alignment; red and green-± 45°; blue neutral, No fiber). Compared with the simulated surface (right), the FC board is 800 mm × 600 mm (middle). b) Demonstration of the forward design process: various generated top and bottom images (left) and their simulated surface configurations (right) (see the experimental implementation in Figure S5, supporting information). c) Demonstration of the reverse design process: the target surface is set to the surface obtained in the simulation (a). It is found that the surface (blue) is compared with the target surface (white). The standard deviation between the surfaces is 0.53, and the global height is 15.0 (the deviation is 3.5%). Please note that the fiber orientation diagram is different from the original diagram in (a). Image source: Blonder, A & Sharon, E, Advanced Materials
In addition, there is the problem of material transportation volume. Realize an off-site manufacturing method in which flat materials can be effectively transported to the site and quickly formed after positioning, which will help solve transportation challenges and site management. Other key aspects that need to be addressed include changes in scale and materials, as well as the design of specialized equipment for on-site manufacturing.
Several key challenges were addressed in the research to achieve truly intelligent, self-deformable materials that are sustainable and can be implemented on a building scale. Innovations like this are pushing the construction industry into the 21st century, significantly improving current practices in the field.
Blonder, A & Sharon, E (2021) Shaping through internal material frustration: turning to architectural style [online] Advanced Science | onlinelibrary.wiley.com. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/advs.202102171
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Reg Davey is a freelance writer and editor based in Nottingham, UK. Writing for news medicine represents a fusion of various interests and fields in which he has been interested and involved for many years, including microbiology, biomedical sciences, and environmental sciences.
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