Send to

Choose Destination
Nat Mater. 2016 Apr;15(4):413-8. doi: 10.1038/nmat4544. Epub 2016 Jan 25.

Biomimetic 4D printing.

Author information

John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, 29 Oxford Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.
Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University, 60 Oxford Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.
School of Chemical Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA.
Departments of Physics and Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and Kavli Institute for NanoBio Science and Technology, Harvard University, 29 Oxford Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.


Shape-morphing systems can be found in many areas, including smart textiles, autonomous robotics, biomedical devices, drug delivery and tissue engineering. The natural analogues of such systems are exemplified by nastic plant motions, where a variety of organs such as tendrils, bracts, leaves and flowers respond to environmental stimuli (such as humidity, light or touch) by varying internal turgor, which leads to dynamic conformations governed by the tissue composition and microstructural anisotropy of cell walls. Inspired by these botanical systems, we printed composite hydrogel architectures that are encoded with localized, anisotropic swelling behaviour controlled by the alignment of cellulose fibrils along prescribed four-dimensional printing pathways. When combined with a minimal theoretical framework that allows us to solve the inverse problem of designing the alignment patterns for prescribed target shapes, we can programmably fabricate plant-inspired architectures that change shape on immersion in water, yielding complex three-dimensional morphologies.

Comment in

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group
Loading ...
Support Center