Aperiodic Mechanical Metamaterials: Bridging the Gap between Matter and Machine


I propose to develop aperiodic mechanical metamaterials, made of deformable elastic unit cells tiled in a 3D cubic lattice. While periodic mechanical metamaterials have very recently caught a lot of attention, their aperiodic counterparts remain completely unexplored. I will exploit their complex mechanisms to create and program simple machine materials that can do specific mechanical tasks.
Building on my recent work in 3D printing of soft structures, I will manufacture such metamaterials with highly deformable constituents and probe the emergence of collective elastic instabilities and nonlinear motion. I will use these mechanisms to create programmable materials.

I will follow three lines of attack:

1. I will explore the combinatorial design space for the ordering of the unit cells to obtain novel elastic properties.

2. I will harness elastic instabilities to create machine materials that can mechanically recognize patterns.

3. I will introduce vacancy defects, to enable 3D shape-changing metamaterials.

Combining cutting-edge additive manufacturing techniques, desktop scale experiments and numerical optimization, I will discover the physics of programmable mechanical metamaterials to create machine matter.


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. C.J.M. Coulais

Affiliated with

Universiteit Leiden, Faculteit der Wiskunde en Natuurwetenschappen, Leids Instituut voor Onderzoek in de Natuurkunde (LION)

Team members

Dr. C.J.M. Coulais


01/01/2016 to 01/01/2019