Soft network composite materials with deterministic and bio-inspired designs

Nat Commun. 2015 Mar 18;6:6566. doi: 10.1038/ncomms7566.


Hard and soft structural composites found in biology provide inspiration for the design of advanced synthetic materials. Many examples of bio-inspired hard materials can be found in the literature; far less attention has been devoted to soft systems. Here we introduce deterministic routes to low-modulus thin film materials with stress/strain responses that can be tailored precisely to match the non-linear properties of biological tissues, with application opportunities that range from soft biomedical devices to constructs for tissue engineering. The approach combines a low-modulus matrix with an open, stretchable network as a structural reinforcement that can yield classes of composites with a wide range of desired mechanical responses, including anisotropic, spatially heterogeneous, hierarchical and self-similar designs. Demonstrative application examples in thin, skin-mounted electrophysiological sensors with mechanics precisely matched to the human epidermis and in soft, hydrogel-based vehicles for triggered drug release suggest their broad potential uses in biomedical devices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biocompatible Materials / chemistry
  • Biomimetic Materials*
  • Biomimetics
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Elastic Modulus
  • Electronics
  • Electrophysiology
  • Epidermis / metabolism
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Hardness
  • Humans
  • Hydrogels / chemistry
  • Imides / chemistry
  • Materials Testing*
  • Skin
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tensile Strength
  • Tissue Engineering / methods


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Hydrogels
  • Imides