Octopus Cells Hold Key to Creation of Medical Wonder, Smart Metamaterials

Researchers out of the University of New Hampshire are using Octopuses to create a new 3D printing material that could be used to create ‘smart metamaterials.’

From 3ders.org

3D printed octopus organs could have applications in biomedical devices, sensors, and stretchable electronics

Two researchers from the University of New Hampshire are turning to an unlikely source of inspiration for new 3D printing materials: the common Octopus. As members of the Cephalopod family, octopuses, squids, and cuttlefish all have an important survival mechanism in common: their remarkable ability to camouflage, instantaneously transforming colour to match their surroundings. It’s an incredible disguise that gives these deep-sea creatures a leg (or tentacle) up when hiding from predators or hunting prey.

Now, for the first time, humans are getting in on the action. Based out of the department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of New Hampshire, professors Yunyao Jiang and Yaning Li spent considerable time researching the aquatic phenomenon, with an eye towards artificially recreating it. Their findings, published in the newest issue of the scientific journal Advanced Engineering Materials, are nothing short of astounding…..


Inspired by this natural wonder, Jiang and Li began developing their own artificial chromatophores by way of multi-material 3D printing. Yet while octopuses use their chromatophore capabilities primarily for pigment translocation, the University of New Hampshire professors sought to bring about dramatic volume change and a uniquely sequential cell-opening mechanism with their work. Scientific concepts of auxetic effect (also known as negative Poisson’s ratio effect) and chiral geometry were key in achieving a successful outcome, which allows materials to expand in one direction when they are stretched in a different direction.

By tailoring their chiral geometry across two different directions, Jiang and Li could design a mechanism that, when loaded in only one direction, enabled cells of different sizes to open sequentially. That means the artificially designed cells can be opened in different ordering patterns, and tuned via a combination of geometry and materials. As a valuable new design concept, Jiang and Li’s innovation could have serious impacts on the smart metamaterials we use for actuation, drug delivery, and colour change. Potential applications are numerous, iSciento say the least. By leveraging these 3D printed chromatophores, biomedical scaffolds, bandages, drug reservoirs and stents could be designed much more effectively to suit the wearer’s body. The expanding field of foldable or deployable devices could also clearly benefit from the innovation, alongside areas such as smart responsive composites, actuators and sensors, and stretchable electronics.

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