Harnessing transition waves to realize deployable structures


Transition waves that sequentially switch bistable elements from one stable configuration to another have received significant interest in recent years not only because of their rich physics but also, for their potential applications, including unidirectional propagation, energy harvesting, and mechanical computation. Here, we exploit the propagation of transition waves in a bistable one-dimensional (1D) linkage as a robust mechanism to realize structures that can be quickly deployed. We first use a combination of experiments and analyses to show that, if the bistable joints are properly designed, transition waves can propagate throughout the entire structure and transform the initial straight configuration into a curved one. We then demonstrate that such bistable linkages can be used as building blocks to realize deployable three-dimensional (3D) structures of arbitrary shape.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences