Natural materials are highly organized, frequently possessing intricate and sophisticated hierarchical structures from which superior properties emerge. In the wake of biomimicry, there is a growing interest in designing architected materials in the laboratory as such structures could enable myriad functionalities in engineering. Yet, their fabrication remains challenging despite recent progress in additive manufacturing. In particular, soft materials are typically poorly suited to form the requisite structures consisting of regular geometries. Here, a new frugal methodology is reported to fabricate pixelated soft materials. This approach is conceptually analogous to the watershed transform used in image analysis and allows the passive assembly of complex geometries through the capillary-mediated flow of curable elastomers in confined geometries. Emerging from sources distributed across a Hele–Shaw cell consisting of two parallel flat plates separated by an infinitesimally small gap, these flows eventually meet at the “dividing lines” thereby forming Voronoi tesselations. After curing is complete, these structures turn into composite elastic sheets. Rationalizing the fluid mechanics at play allows the structural geometry of the newly formed sheets to be tailored and thereby their local material properties to be tuned.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- Mechanics of Materials
- Mechanical Engineering
- fluid mechanics