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Engineering of biomimetic surfaces: Switchable micropatterns for controlled adhesion and touch (SWITCH2STICK)
Start date: Feb 1, 2014, End date: Jan 31, 2019 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"Nature has, in the course of evolution, found many fascinating solutions to “engineering problems”. The proposed work aims at three-dimensional (3D) surface structures inspired by insects, spiders and geckoes. Based on the PI’s earlier work on passive structures, the new challenge addressed by this interdisciplinary project is to design and investigate active, switchable 3D micropatterns, whose adhesion and touch can be tuned at will and modified on demand. The resulting features will bend or tilt in response to external stimuli (especially temperature, electric field and stress) and thereby create a responsive surface structure. Theoretical modelling and simulation of the relevant mechanics will be a major effort to establish “structure-property relationships” for switchable patterned surfaces, to guide the choice of structure parameters and to establish new multifunctional design rules for targeted applications. Emphasis will be placed on the novel aspect of interaction with soft, compliant objects, with a view to creating future opportunities for interaction with soft matter and skin. Talented junior scientists – with both experimental and theoretical background - will be heavily involved as an opportunity to promote their career opportunities in this modern field of materials research. A final objective will be the exploration of the transferability of patterning techniques to larger-scale areas. Overall, such switchable micropatterns will likely open up revolutionary new possibilities in various technologies: robotic grippers with careful, benign “touch” of delicate objects, medical adhesives that become sticky on reaching body temperature, and active devices that can respond and send signals to touching fingers. The successful project will thus lay the scientific foundations for innovative devices and solutions that will improve our competitiveness and the living conditions of an ageing society."
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