Three-dimensional Shape Transformations of Hydrogel Sheets Induced by Small-Scale Modulation of Internal Stresses

Nat Commun. 2013;4:1586. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2549.


Although Nature has always been a common source of inspiration in the development of artificial materials, only recently has the ability of man-made materials to produce complex three-dimensional (3D) structures from two-dimensional sheets been explored. Here we present a new approach to the self-shaping of soft matter that mimics fibrous plant tissues by exploiting small-scale variations in the internal stresses to form three-dimensional morphologies. We design single-layer hydrogel sheets with chemically distinct, fibre-like regions that exhibit differential shrinkage and elastic moduli under the application of external stimulus. Using a planar-to-helical three-dimensional shape transformation as an example, we explore the relation between the internal architecture of the sheets and their transition to cylindrical and conical helices with specific structural characteristics. The ability to engineer multiple three-dimensional shape transformations determined by small-scale patterns in a hydrogel sheet represents a promising step in the development of programmable soft matter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't