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Structured fabrics with tunable mechanical properties

Wang, Yifan and Li, Liuchi and Hofmann, Douglas and Andrade, José E. and Daraio, Chiara (2021) Structured fabrics with tunable mechanical properties. Nature, 596 (7871). pp. 238-243. ISSN 0028-0836. doi:10.1038/s41586-021-03698-7.

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[img] Video (MPEG) (Video 3) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 1: Construction of the ‘digital twin’ and the envelope) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 2: The bending test simulation and illustration of how we categorized each contact into either the ‘compressive’ or ‘tensile’ type) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 3: Details of the 3D architected particles and fabrics) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 4: Details of the classical chain mail fabrics) - Supplemental Material
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[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 5: Comparing experimental and numerical results of two-layer fabrics consisting of particles of different shapes and loaded along different directions) - Supplemental Material
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Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Table 1: Packing fraction of different fabric sheets under various confining pressures, and fitting parameters used for the power-law relation shown in Fig. 3g) - Supplemental Material
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Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Table 2: Average dimensions computed from four separate simulations) - Supplemental Material
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Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Table 3: Values of the model parameters used in this study) - Supplemental Material
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Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Table 4: The Poisson’s ratio obtained during uni-axial tensile tests under different pressures for fabrics with three particle geometries) - Supplemental Material
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Structured fabrics, such as woven sheets or chain mail armours, derive their properties both from the constitutive materials and their geometry. Their design can target desirable characteristics, such as high impact resistance, thermal regulation, or electrical conductivity. Once realized, however, the fabrics’ properties are usually fixed. Here we demonstrate structured fabrics with tunable bending modulus, consisting of three-dimensional particles arranged into layered chain mails. The chain mails conform to complex shapes, but when pressure is exerted at their boundaries, the particles interlock and the chain mails jam. We show that, with small external pressure (about 93 kilopascals), the sheets become more than 25 times stiffer than in their relaxed configuration. This dramatic increase in bending resistance arises because the interlocking particles have high tensile resistance, unlike what is found for loose granular media. We use discrete-element simulations to relate the chain mail’s micro-structure to macroscale properties and to interpret experimental measurements. We find that chain mails, consisting of different non-convex granular particles, undergo a jamming phase transition that is described by a characteristic power-law function akin to the behaviour of conventional convex media. Our work provides routes towards lightweight, tunable and adaptive fabrics, with potential applications in wearable exoskeletons, haptic architectures and reconfigurable medical supports.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube access ItemFigures
Wang, Yifan0000-0001-9965-9777
Li, Liuchi0000-0002-1360-4757
Hofmann, Douglas0000-0002-0872-5239
Daraio, Chiara0000-0001-5296-4440
Additional Information:© 2021 Nature Publishing Group. Received 23 August 2020; Accepted 07 June 2021; Published 11 August 2021. We thank K. Liu for discussions; A. Pate, H. Ramirez and M. Zuleta for printing the aluminum chain mails ; D. Ruffatto for helping with printing early-stage prototypes; and S. Fan for assistance with photographing the 3D-printed sample in Figs. 1d, f and 4a, b. Y.W and C.D. acknowledge support from the Foster and Coco Stanback Space Innovation fund, Facebook and the Army Research Office grant W911NF-17-1-0147. L.L. and J.E.A. acknowledge support from the Army Research Office (MURI grant number W911NF-19-1-0245). This research was carried out at the California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and funded through the President’s and Director’s Fund Program. Computational resources were provided by the High Performance Computing Center at Caltech. Data availability: The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request and online ( These authors contributed equally: Yifan Wang, Liuchi Li. Author Contributions: Y.W. and C.D. designed the sample structure and the experiments. Y.W. fabricated the sample, performed the experiments and analysed experimental data. L.L. and J.E.A. designed the LS-DEM model. L.L. performed the LS-DEM simulations and analysed numerical results. D.H. printed the metallic chain mail. Y.W., L.L. and C.D. wrote the manuscript. All authors interpreted the results and reviewed the manuscript. The authors declare no competing interests. Peer review information: Nature thanks Laurent Orgeas and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Foster and Coco Stanback Postdoctoral FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Army Research Office (ARO)W911NF-17-1-0147
Army Research Office (ARO)W911NF-19-1-0245
JPL President and Director's FundUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Mechanical engineering; Mechanical properties; Soft materials
Issue or Number:7871
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210519-124245707
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Official Citation:Wang, Y., Li, L., Hofmann, D. et al. Structured fabrics with tunable mechanical properties. Nature 596, 238–243 (2021).
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:109184
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:11 Aug 2021 23:11
Last Modified:12 Aug 2021 16:24

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