Programmable gear-based mechanical metamaterials

Xing Fang, Jihong Wen, Li Cheng, Dianlong Yu, Hongjia Zhang, Peter Gumbsch

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Elastic properties of classical bulk materials can hardly be changed or adjusted in operando, while such tunable elasticity is highly desired for robots and smart machinery. Although possible in reconfigurable metamaterials, continuous tunability in existing designs is plagued by issues such as structural instability, weak robustness, plastic failure and slow response. Here we report a metamaterial design paradigm using gears with encoded stiffness gradients as the constituent elements and organizing gear clusters for versatile functionalities. The design enables continuously tunable elastic properties while preserving stability and robust manoeuvrability, even under a heavy load. Such gear-based metamaterials enable excellent properties such as continuous modulation of Young’s modulus by two orders of magnitude, shape morphing between ultrasoft and solid states, and fast response. This allows for metamaterial customization and brings fully programmable materials and adaptive robots within reach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)869-876
Number of pages8
JournalNature Materials
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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