Princeton Researchers Grow Artificial Hair With Smart Physics Trick

Princeton researchers have found that they can spin liquid elastic polymers on a disk to create the complex hair-like shapes needed to create biomimetic surfaces. Credit: Photo courtesy P.-T. Brun

In Princeton, things got new.

Researchers have found that they can have a liquid elastic coating on the outside of a disk and create useful, complex patterns by spinning it. When rotated straight, the small shafts rise from the material as they are treated. The needles grow as the disc accelerates and forms a soft layer resembling hair.

Inspired by biological designs and rationalized with mathematical precision, the new method can be used on an industrial scale for production with plastics, glasses, metals and smart materials.

Researchers will present their findings on February 22, 2021 Materials of the National Academy of Sciences.


Princeton researchers have found that they can create a liquid elastic coating on the outside of a disc and create useful, complex patterns by spinning it. When rotated straight, the small shafts rise from the material as they are treated. The shafts grow faster and form a soft, hair-like layer. Inspired by biological designs and rationalized with mathematical precision, the new method can be used on an industrial scale to produce plastics, glasses, metals and smart materials. Credit: Princeton School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Their technique is based on fairly simple physics, but transforms old engineering problems into new production solutions. The simplicity of the method is cheaper and more complex than traditional molds, and this is part of a larger variation aimed at the production of additives.

The robot also promises to play a key role in the development of sensory abilities and in deceptively simple structures that provide basic life functions on surfaces that mimic biological patterns – spider’s foot hairs or lotus leaf hairs.

“Such patterns are ubiquitous in nature,” said Pierre-Thomas Brun, an associate professor of chemical and biological engineering and lead researcher at Princeton. “Our approach affects the natural formation of these structures.”

Reference: 22 February 2021, Materials of the National Academy of Sciences.

The authors of the article include Etienne Jambon-Puillet, a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton, and Matthieu Royer Piéchaud, formerly of Princeton. This work was partially funded by the National Science Foundation (DMR-1420541) through the Princeton Complex Materials Center.

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