01 OCT 2018

A team of researchers from the Jean-Rond d'Alembert Institute* and the Chemistry of Condensed Matter Laboratory in Paris** have succeeded in reproducing the mechanism that allows cells to be extensible and apply it to synthetic membranes.

This study opens new perspectives in the evolution of material functionalities. Its application could change many emerging technologies such as stretch electronics, flexible batteries, smart fabrics, flexible biomedical implants or soft robotics.

Animal cells have the distinction of being extremely stretchable. Some of them, such as T-lymphocytes, can stretch 40% to fit into microvessels.

"While the membrane that envelops each of these cells will tear at 4 percent extension, the cells manage to stretch considerably more by storing of excess membrane," says Professor Arnaud Antkowiak.

"They make a reserve, which takes the form of folds and microvilli (thin cellular extensions of cylindrical shape), which can be unfolded on demand," to activate the extension mechanism.

The team has developed a process for spontaneously forming folds on synthetic membranes. The results of this study were published in Science on Friday, April 20, 2018.

For more information:

Capillarity-induced folds fuel extreme shape changes in thin wicked membranes, by Paul Grandgeorge, Natacha Krins, Aurélie Hourlier-Fargette, Christel Laberty-Robert, Sébastien Neukirch, Arnaud Antkowiak

* Co-managed by Sorbonne University and the CNRS
** Co-managed by Sorbonne University, the CNRS and the Collège de France