Chemically controlled pattern formation in self-oscillating elastic shells

Siyu Li, Daniel A. Matoz-Fernandez, Aaveg Aggarwal, Monica Olvera de la Cruz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Patterns and morphology develop in living systems such as embryos in response to chemical signals. To understand and exploit the interplay of chemical reactions with mechanical transformations, chemomechanical polymer systems have been synthesized by attaching chemicals into hydrogels. In this work, we design autonomous responsive elastic shells that undergo morphological changes induced by chemical reactions. We couple the local mechanical response of the gel with the chemical processes on the shell. This causes swelling and deswelling of the gel, generating diverse morphological changes, including periodic oscillations. We further introduce a mechanical instability and observe buckling–unbuckling dynamics with a response time delay. Moreover, we investigate the mechanical feedback on the chemical reaction and demonstrate the dynamic patterns triggered by an initial deformation. We show the chemical characteristics that account for the shell morphology and discuss the future designs for autonomous responsive materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2025717118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 9 2021


  • Active solids
  • Mechanochemical coupling
  • Surface mechanics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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