Y-Prize 2018: Embodied Logic and Surface Wrinkle Printing

Each year, Engineering, Wharton and the Penn Center for Innovation come together for an invention competition known as the Y-Prize. Unlike the XPRIZE, where competitors come up with novel technologies to solve a particular problem, the Y-Prize starts with the technologies and challenges entrants to find commercial applications they are particularly suited for.

At stake: $10,000 to help get the winning idea out of the lab and into the market. The contest will begin on Tuesday, September 26 with a kick-off event at Steinberg-Dietrich Hall.

Any Penn student can form a team and brainstorm a startup company that makes use this year’s set of technologies, both of which were developed in Engineering labs and deal with materials that have intricate shape-changing properties.

Embodied Logic

The Venus flytrap is well-known for its ability to rapidly snap its leaves together to trap prey. These leaves embody complex logic. For example, they will release the captured object if it is too small, or if it does not stimulate a series of hairs inside the trap in a set amount of time. Unlike mechatronic systems, which traditionally rely on an integrated system of batteries, sensors, and actuators, such natural systems embody their responsiveness and control logic in the materials they are composed of, as well as structural features of those materials.

Jordan Raney, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, and members of his Architected Materials Laboratory, seek to produce new function in scalable engineering materials via the nuanced, programmable control of their structural and compositional features. The researchers work at the intersection of advanced manufacturing, applied mechanics, and materials processing to produce heterogeneous, multiscale, and tunable architectures, exploring fundamental and applied questions.

Surface Wrinkle Printing

Surface wrinkles are everywhere in daily life, such as in fingerprints. But made from the right materials and the right size, wrinkles can have amazing properties, like allowing geckos to stick to walls or changing the opacity of transparent films. Current manufacturing techniques can only make small patches of these types of wrinkles, and require special environments, making the process costly, time-consuming, and hard to scale.

Roll-to-Roll, or R2R, surface wrinkle printing technology addresses these technological hurdles and can scale up micro-and nano-wrinkle production, using an industrial process akin to the one used in newspaper printing. By continuously depositing a material on a stretchy substrate and then relaxing it, large-area sheets of wrinkles can be produced.

This surface wrinkle printing technique is the result of research by Kathleen Stebe, Richer & Elizabeth Goodwin Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Daeyeon Lee, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Shu Yang, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, as well as Xu Zhang, a postdoctoral researcher ing Yang’s lab.