Programming metastable transition sequences in digital mechanical materials

Lance P. Hyatt, Ryan L. Harne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The realization of unconventional computing methods in soft matter has inspired the creation of mechanological systems capable of processing information. These systems often utilize bistable mechanisms that serve as mechanically abstracted bits to perform digital logic operations. Yet, the input of such operations often requires manual control of complex cyclic loading to reach a desired configuration. This research presents a method to design digital mechanical materials that can enter a programmable sequence of metastable configurations through simple displacement-controlled inputs. Interactions between serially connected bistable units enable the transition and reset behavior of mechanical bits. An analytical model using the principle of minimum total potential energy of a single bit is presented to articulate systematic ways to tune the critical force thresholds and displacements of metastable transition sequences. This work elucidates how the application of a prescribed displacement allows for novel resetting behavior that enables simultaneous transitions of multiple bits. By combining the principles of deterministic transition sequences and mechanical computing, a mechanical analog to digital conversion (ADC) material system is introduced that digitizes a continuous force stimulus into binary configurations that perform computations within the mechanical material based on the applied load. The mechanical ADC establishes a foundation for the integration of environmental sensing, information processing, and response in a soft material system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101975
JournalExtreme Mechanics Letters
StatePublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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