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Title: Synthetic growth by self-lubricated photopolymerization and extrusion inspired by plants and fungi
Many natural organisms, such as fungal hyphae and plant roots, grow at their tips, enabling the generation of complex bodies composed of natural materials as well as dexterous movement and exploration. Tip growth presents an exemplary process by which materials synthesis and actuation are coupled, providing a blueprint for how growth could be realized in a synthetic system. Herein, we identify three underlying principles essential to tip-based growth of biological organisms: a fluid pressure driving force, localized polymerization for generating structure, and fluid-mediated transport of constituent materials. In this work, these evolved features inspire a synthetic materials growth process called extrusion by self-lubricated interface photopolymerization (E-SLIP), which can continuously fabricate solid profiled polymer parts with tunable mechanical properties from liquid precursors. To demonstrate the utility of E-SLIP, we create a tip-growing soft robot, outline its fundamental governing principles, and highlight its capabilities for growth at speeds up to 12 cm/min and lengths up to 1.5 m. This growing soft robot is capable of executing a range of tasks, including exploration, burrowing, and traversing tortuous paths, which highlight the potential for synthetic growth as a platform for on-demand manufacturing of infrastructure, exploration, and sensing in a variety of environments.  more » « less
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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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