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  1. We performed dynamic pressure buckling experiments on defect-seeded spherical shells made of a common silicone elastomer. Unlike in quasi-static experiments, shells buckled at ostensibly subcritical pressures, i.e. below the experimentally determined critical load at which buckling occurs elastically, often following a significant delay period from the time of load application. While emphasizing the close connections to elastic shell buckling, we rely on viscoelasticity to explain our observations. In particular, we demonstrate that the lower critical load may be determined from the material properties, which is rationalized by a simple analogy to elastic spherical shell buckling. We then introduce a model centred on empirical quantities to show that viscoelastic creep deformation lowers the critical load in the same predictable, quantifiable way that a growing defect would in an elastic shell. This allows us to capture how both the deflection at instability and the time delay depend on the applied pressure, material properties and defect geometry. These quantities are straightforward to measure in experiments. Thus, our work not only provides intuition for viscoelastic behaviour from an elastic shell buckling perspective but also offers an accessible pathway to introduce tunable, time-controlled actuation to existing mechanical actuators, e.g. pneumatic grippers. 
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  2. The ability to grab, hold, and manipulate objects is a vital and fundamental operation in biological and engineering systems. Here, we present a soft gripper using a simple material system that enables precise and rapid grasping, and can be miniaturized, modularized, and remotely actuated. This soft gripper is based on kirigami shells—thin, elastic shells patterned with an array of cuts. The kirigami cut pattern is determined by evaluating the shell’s mechanics and geometry, using a combination of experiments, finite element simulations, and theoretical modeling, which enables the gripper design to be both scalable and material independent. We demonstrate that the kirigami shell gripper can be readily integrated with an existing robotic platform or remotely actuated using a magnetic field. The kirigami cut pattern results in a simple unit cell that can be connected together in series, and again in parallel, to create kirigami gripper arrays capable of simultaneously grasping multiple delicate and slippery objects. These soft and lightweight grippers will have applications in robotics, haptics, and biomedical device design.

     
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  3. We propose and investigate a minimal mechanism that makes use of differential swelling to modify the critical buckling conditions of elastic bilayer shells, as measured by the knockdown factor. Our shells contain an engineered defect at the north pole and are made of two layers of different crosslinked polymers that exchange free molecular chains. Depending on the size of the defect and the extent of swelling, we can observe either a decreasing or increasing knockdown factor. FEM simulations are performed using a reduced model for the swelling process to aid us in rationalizing the underlying mechanism, providing a qualitative agreement with experiments. We believe that the working principle of our mechanism can be extended to bimetallic shells undergoing variations in temperature and to shells made of pH-responsive gels, where the change in knockdown factor could be changed dynamically. 
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  4. We study the periodic buckling patterns that emerge when elastic shells are subjected to geometric confinement. Residual swelling provides access to range of shapes (saddles, rolled sheets, cylinders, and spherical sections) which vary in their extrinsic and intrinsic curvatures. Our experimental and numerical data show that when these moderately thick structures are radially confined, a single geometric parameter – the ratio of the total shell radius to the amount of unconstrained material – predicts the number of lobes formed. We present a model that interprets this scaling as the competition between radial and circumferential bending. Next, we show that reducing the transverse confinement of saddles causes the lobe number to decrease with a similar scaling analysis. Hence, one geometric parameter captures the wave number through a wide range of radial and transverse confinement, connecting the shell shape to the shape of the boundary that confines it. We expect these results to be relevant for an expanse of shell shapes, and thus applicable to the design of shape-shifting materials and the swelling and growth of soft structures. 
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