T-ERC_STG - Tremplin-ERC Starting

Bioinspired soft actuation – BioSoftAct

Submission summary

Natural biological structures, e.g. plants and insects, are a fantastic source of inspiration featuring strategies where control of form and motion often relies on interacting elementary units that exhibit a simple actuation mechanism. This ERC Starting grant proposal builds on these bioinspired strategies to devise and formalize a new class of soft structures that expand, change shape or respond to external stimulus by harnessing the collective effects of ordered and disordered network of actuators. Physical coupling between actuators leads to the emergence of complex nonlinear dynamics. The project is concerned with the directed control of these collective effects, which must ?rst be understood predictively and then exploited for their functions. Speci?cally, I will focus on three actuation mechanisms, from simple hydraulic actuators in organized networks to coupled unstable actuators in disordered networks: (i) hydraulic expansion of the Drosophila wing, (ii) elastic instability in the rapid deployment of the trigger plant and (iii) dynamic heterogeneities in the dense assembly of disordered ?bers in Marchantia. In all three cases, I will ?rst characterize structural shape changes at the organ and tissue level and build a fundamental understanding of biomechanical actuation. Hand in hand with direct observation of biological systems, I will develop model experiments using digital fabrication and rapid prototyping techniques to reduce the complexity of the system to its essential physical ingredients, rationalize the actuation processes, and understand the physical mechanisms supported by theory and computation. I will address the inverse problem, optimizing the spatial arrangement of individual actuators to program the targeted shape, mechanical and dynamic response of the structure. Finally, I will transfer these robust mechanisms to engineering applications at all scales, from deployable space structures to soft robots and medical devices.

Project coordination

Joël Marthelot (Institut universitaire des systèmes thermiques industriels)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


IUSTI Institut universitaire des systèmes thermiques industriels

Help of the ANR 112,822 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: April 2022 - 24 Months

Useful links

Explorez notre base de projets financés



ANR makes available its datasets on funded projects, click here to find more.

Sign up for the latest news:
Subscribe to our newsletter