Three-dimensional mechanical metamaterials with a twist

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Science  24 Nov 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6366, pp. 1072-1074
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao4640

Getting twisted with metamaterials

In the classical picture of solid mechanics, deformation in response to stress is constrained owing to limitations on the degrees of freedom. For instance, when you push on a material, you do not expect it to twist in response. Frenzel et al. designed a mechanical metamaterial with a pronounced twist to the left or right when pushed (see the Perspective by Coulais). Designing this type of chirality for a macroscopic material is unexpected, but it points to a more general strategy for developing materials with unusual deformation behavior.

Science, this issue p. 1072; see also p. 994


Rationally designed artificial materials enable mechanical properties that are inaccessible with ordinary materials. Pushing on an ordinary linearly elastic bar can cause it to be deformed in many ways. However, a twist, the counterpart of optical activity in the static case, is strictly zero. The unavailability of this degree of freedom hinders applications in terms of mode conversion and the realization of advanced mechanical designs using coordinate transformations. Here, we aim at realizing microstructured three-dimensional elastic chiral mechanical metamaterials that overcome this limitation. On overall millimeter-sized samples, we measure twists per axial strain exceeding 2°/%. Scaling up the number of unit cells for fixed sample dimensions, the twist is robust due to metamaterial stiffening, indicating a characteristic length scale and bringing the aforementioned applications into reach.

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