Smart, Mechanical Metamaterials with Tunable Expansion Coefficients

Northeastern University Background
Metamaterials are artificially engineered materials with customized properties. They can be used in applications including, but not limited to, sensors, actuators, fasteners, biomedical materials, stents, smart digital displays, smart clothing, and wearable devices. While metamaterials offer great promise, challenges in fabrication methods and restrictions on base materials have prevented industry from capitalizing on their full potential.
Technology Overview
Northeastern researchers have developed a breakthrough manufacturing process for the production of metamaterials with tunable expansion coefficients. These hybrid structured materials, composed of hard cells with specifically designed soft networks, soft hinges or bi-layer components are responsive to external stimuli such as mechanical load, temperature, humidity or electric-magnetic fields. This results in a wide range of both positive and negative expansion coefficients with the unique property of shape memory effects. These materials can compress or expand in response to stimuli, and then return to original form and function, all due to the spatial memory formed by precise manufacturing layout and design. The specific orientation of these hard and soft components, coupled with an optimized bi-axial displacement ratio leads to different instability patterns and can easily trigger volume change. This manufacturing process can be applied to many different 2D and 3D geometries using a large array of materials.

Compatible with a range of materials
Low cost due to easy and versatile manufacturing methods
Not limited to thermal expansion coefficients


Sensors, actuators, and fasteners
Bio-medical materials including devices for drug delivery, and biomedical stents,
Smart digital displays, smart clothes and wearable devices
Inducing color change for camouflage, and pattern change
Designing responsive filters or valves to control the flow of fluids or particles.

Seeking opportunities for research collaborations and licensing.

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