Reconfiguration of multistable 3D ferromagnetic mesostructures guided by energy landscape surveys

Yi Li, Samuel J. Avis, Junbo Chen, Guangfu Wu, Teng Zhang, Halim Kusumaatmaja, Xueju Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Three-dimensional (3D) mesostructures that can reversibly change their geometries and thereby their functionalities are promising for a wide range of applications. Despite intensive studies, the lack of fundamental understanding of the highly nonlinear multistable states existing in these structures has significantly hindered the development of reconfigurable systems that can realize rapid, well-controlled shape changes. Herein we exploit systematic energy landscape analysis of deformable 3D mesostructures to tailor their multistable states and least energy reconfiguration paths. We employ a discrete shell model and minimum energy pathway methods to establish design phase diagrams for a controlled number of stable states and their energy-efficient reconfiguration paths by varying essential geometry and material parameters. Concurrently, our experiments show that 3D mesostructures assembled from ferromagnetic composite thin films of diverse geometries can be rapidly reconfigured among their multistable states in a remote, on-demand fashion by using a portable magnet, with the configuration of each stable state well maintained after the removal of the external magnetic field. The number of stable states and reconfigurable paths observed in experiments are in excellent agreement with computational predictions. In addition, we demonstrate a wide breadth of applications including reconfigurable 3D light emitting systems, remotely-controlled release of particles from a multistable structure, and 3D structure arrays that can form desired patterns following the written path of a magnetic “pen”. Our results represent a critical step towards the rational design and development of reconfigurable structures for applications including soft robotics, multifunctional deployable devices, and many others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101428
JournalExtreme Mechanics Letters
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Energy landscape surveys
  • Ferromagnetic composites
  • Multistable 3D structures
  • Reconfiguration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Chemical Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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