Designing and Harnessing the Metastable States of a Modular Metastructure for Programmable Mechanical Properties Adaptation

R. L. Harne, Z. Wu, K. W. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Recent studies on periodic metamaterial systems have shown that remarkable properties adaptivity and versatility are often the products of exploiting internal, coexisting metastable states. Motivated by this concept, this research develops and explores a local-global design framework wherein macroscopic system-level properties are sought according to a strategic periodic constituent composition and assembly. To this end and taking inspiration from recent insights in studies of multiphase composite materials and cytoskeletal actin networks, this study develops adaptable metastable modules that are assembled into modular metastructures, such that the latter are invested with synergistic features due to the strategic module development and integration. Using this approach, it is seen that modularity creates an accessible pathway to exploit metastable states for programmable metastructure adaptivity, including a near-continuous variation of mechanical properties or stable topologies and adjustable hysteresis. A model is developed to understand the source of the synergistic characteristics, and theoretical findings are found to be in good agreement with experimental results. Important design-based questions are raised regarding the modular metastructure concept, and a genetic algorithm (GA) routine is developed to elucidate the sensitivities of the properties variation with respect to the statistics amongst assembled module design variables. To obtain target multifunctionality and adaptivity, the routine discovers that particular degrees and types of modular heterogeneity are required. Future realizations of modular metastructures are discussed to illustrate the extensibility of the design concept and broad application base.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number021402
JournalJournal of Mechanical Design - Transactions of the ASME
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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