Active materials have emerged as valuable candidates for shape morphing applications, where a body reconfiguration is achieved upon triggering its active response. Given a desired shape change, a natural question is to compare different morphing mechanisms to select the most effective one with respect to an optimality criterion. We introduce an optimal control problem to determine the active strains suitable to attain a target equilibrium shape while minimizing the complexity of the activation. Specifically, we discuss the planar morphing of active, hyperelastic bodies in the absence of external forces and exploit the notion of target metric to encompass a broad set of active materials in a unifying approach. For the case of affine shape changes, we derive explicit conditions on the body reference configuration for the optimality of homogeneous target metrics. More complex shape changes are analysed via numerical simulations to explore the impact on optimal solutions of different objective functionals inspired by features of existing materials. We show how stresses arising from incompatibilities contribute to reduce the complexity of the controls. We believe that our approach may be exploited for the optimal design of active systems and may contribute to gather insight into the morphing strategies of biological systems.

%B Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences %V 478 %P 20220256 %G eng %U https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/abs/10.1098/rspa.2022.0256 %R 10.1098/rspa.2022.0256 %0 Journal Article %J Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A %D 2021 %T Nutations in growing plant shoots as a morphoelastic flutter instability %A Daniele Agostinelli %A Giovanni Noselli %A Antonio DeSimone %XGrowing plant shoots exhibit spontaneous oscillations that Darwin observed, and termed "circumnutations". Recently, they have received renewed attention for the design and optimal actuation of bioinspired robotic devices. We discuss a possible interpretation of these spontaneous oscillations as a Hopf-type bifurcation in a growing morphoelastic rod. Using a three-dimensional model and numerical simulations, we analyse the salient features of this flutter-like phenomenon (e.g. the characteristic period of the oscillations) and their dependence on the model details (in particular, the impact of choosing different growth models) finding that, overall, these features are robust with respect to changes in the details of the growth model adopted.

%B Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A %V 379 %G eng %U https://doi.org/10.1098/rsta.2020.0116 %9 Journal article %R 10.1098/rsta.2020.0116 %0 Journal Article %J Frontiers in Plant Science %D 2021 %T Nutations in plant shoots: Endogenous and exogenous factors in the presence of mechanical deformations %A Daniele Agostinelli %A Antonio DeSimone %A Giovanni Noselli %XWe present a three-dimensional morphoelastic rod model capable to describe the morphogenesis of growing plant shoots driven by differential growth. We discuss the evolution laws for endogenous oscillators, straightening mechanisms, and reorientations to directional cues, such as gravitropic reactions governed by the avalanche dynamics of statoliths. We use this model to investigate the role of elastic deflections due to gravity loading in circumnutating plant shoots. We show that, in the absence of endogenous cues, pendular and circular oscillations arise as a critical length is attained, thus suggesting the occurrence of an instability triggered by exogenous factors. When also oscillations due to endogenous cues are present, their weight relative to those associated with the instability varies in time as the shoot length and other biomechanical properties change. Thanks to the simultaneous occurrence of these two oscillatory mechanisms, we are able to reproduce a variety of complex behaviors, including trochoid-like patterns, which evolve into circular orbits as the shoot length increases, and the amplitude of the exogenous oscillations becomes dominant.

%B Frontiers in Plant Science %I Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory %V 12 %G eng %U https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpls.2021.608005 %9 Journal article %R 10.3389/fpls.2021.608005 %0 Journal Article %J Mathematics in Engineering %D 2020 %T MicroMotility: State of the art, recent accomplishments and perspectives on the mathematical modeling of bio-motility at microscopic scales %A Daniele Agostinelli %A Roberto Cerbino %A Del Alamo, Juan C %A Antonio DeSimone %A Stephanie Höhn %A Cristian Micheletti %A Giovanni Noselli %A Eran Sharon %A Julia Yeomans %K active matter %K adhesive locomotion %K cell motility %K cell sheet folding %K knotted DNA %K topological defects %K unicellular swimmers %K unjamming transition %XMathematical modeling and quantitative study of biological motility (in particular, of motility at microscopic scales) is producing new biophysical insight and is offering opportunities for new discoveries at the level of both fundamental science and technology. These range from the explanation of how complex behavior at the level of a single organism emerges from body architecture, to the understanding of collective phenomena in groups of organisms and tissues, and of how these forms of swarm intelligence can be controlled and harnessed in engineering applications, to the elucidation of processes of fundamental biological relevance at the cellular and sub-cellular level. In this paper, some of the most exciting new developments in the fields of locomotion of unicellular organisms, of soft adhesive locomotion across scales, of the study of pore translocation properties of knotted DNA, of the development of synthetic active solid sheets, of the mechanics of the unjamming transition in dense cell collectives, of the mechanics of cell sheet folding in volvocalean algae, and of the self-propulsion of topological defects in active matter are discussed. For each of these topics, we provide a brief state of the art, an example of recent achievements, and some directions for future research.

%B Mathematics in Engineering %V 2 %P 230 %G eng %U http://dx.doi.org/10.3934/mine.2020011 %9 Perspective %R 10.3934/mine.2020011 %0 Journal Article %J Journal of Applied Mechanics %D 2020 %T A Theoretical Study on the Transient Morphing of Linear Poroelastic Plates %A Dario Andrini %A Alessandro Lucantonio %A Giovanni Noselli %XBased on their shape-shifting capabilities, soft active materials have enabled new possibilities for the engineering of sensing and actuation devices. While the relation between active strains and emergent equilibrium shapes has been fully characterized, the transient morphing of thin structures is a rather unexplored topic. Here, we focus on polymer gel plates and derive a reduced linear model to study their time-dependent response to changes in the fluid environment. We show that independent control of stretching and bending deformations in stress-free conditions allows to realize spherical shapes with prescribed geometry of the mid-plane. Furthermore, we demonstrate that tensile (compressive) membrane stresses delay (accelerate) swelling-induced shape transitions compared to the stress-free evolution. We believe that these effects should be considered for the accurate design of smart systems and may contribute to explain the complexity of natural shapes.

%B Journal of Applied Mechanics %V 88 %8 12 %G eng %U https://doi.org/10.1115/1.4048806 %R 10.1115/1.4048806 %0 Journal Article %J Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids %D 2019 %T Nutations in growing plant shoots: The role of elastic deformations due to gravity loading %A Daniele Agostinelli %A Alessandro Lucantonio %A Giovanni Noselli %A Antonio DeSimone %K Circumnutations %K Flutter instability %K Gravitropism %K Hopf bifurcation %XThe effect of elastic deformations induced by gravity loading on the active circumnutation movements of growing plant shoots is investigated. We consider first a discrete model (a gravitropic spring-pendulum system) and then a continuous rod model which is analyzed both analytically (under the assumption of small deformations) and numerically (in the large deformation regime). We find that, for a choice of material parameters consistent with values reported in the available literature on plant shoots, rods of sufficient length may exhibit lateral oscillations of increasing amplitude, which eventually converge to limit cycles. This behavior strongly suggests the occurrence of a Hopf bifurcation, just as for the gravitropic spring-pendulum system, for which this result is rigorously established. At least in this restricted set of material parameters, our analysis supports a view of Darwin’s circumnutations as a biological analogue to structural systems exhibiting flutter instabilities, i.e., spontaneous oscillations away from equilibrium configurations driven by non-conservative loads. Here, in the context of nutation movements of growing plant shoots, the energy needed to sustain oscillations is continuously supplied to the system by the internal biochemical machinery presiding the capability of plants to maintain a vertical pose.

%B Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids %P 103702 %G eng %U https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmps.2019.103702 %R 10.1016/j.jmps.2019.103702 %0 Journal Article %J Nature Physics %D 2019 %T Swimming Euglena respond to confinement with a behavioural change enabling effective crawling %A Giovanni Noselli %A Alfred Beran %A Marino Arroyo %A Antonio DeSimone %X Some euglenids, a family of aquatic unicellular organisms, can develop highly concerted, large-amplitude peristaltic body deformations. This remarkable behaviour has been known for centuries. Yet, its function remains controversial, and is even viewed as a functionless ancestral vestige. Here, by examining swimming Euglena gracilis in environments of controlled crowding and geometry, we show that this behaviour is triggered by confinement. Under these conditions, it allows cells to switch from unviable flagellar swimming to a new and highly robust mode of fast crawling, which can deal with extreme geometric confinement and turn both frictional and hydraulic resistance into propulsive forces. To understand how a single cell can control such an adaptable and robust mode of locomotion, we developed a computational model of the motile apparatus of Euglena cells consisting of an active striated cell envelope. Our modelling shows that gait adaptability does not require specific mechanosensitive feedback but instead can be explained by the mechanical self-regulation of an elastic and extended motor system. Our study thus identifies a locomotory function and the operating principles of the adaptable peristaltic body deformation of Euglena cells. %B Nature Physics %V 15 %P 496–502 %G eng %U https://doi.org/10.1038/s41567-019-0425-8 %R 10.1038/s41567-019-0425-8 %0 Journal Article %J International Journal of Mechanical Sciences %D 2018 %T Spontaneous morphing of equibiaxially pre-stretched elastic bilayers: The role of sample geometry %A Noe Caruso %A Aleksandar Cvetković %A Alessandro Lucantonio %A Giovanni Noselli %A Antonio DeSimone %K Bifurcation %K Elastic bilayer %K Pre-stretch %K Shape programming %XAn elastic bilayer, consisting of an equibiaxially pre-stretched sheet bonded to a stress-free one, spontaneously morphs into curved shapes in the absence of external loads or constraints. Using experiments and numerical simulations, we explore the role of geometry for square and rectangular samples in determining the equilibrium shape of the system, for a fixed pre-stretch. We classify the observed shapes over a wide range of aspect ratios according to their curvatures and compare measured and computed values, which show good agreement. In particular, as the bilayer becomes thinner, a bifurcation of the principal curvatures occurs, which separates two scaling regimes for the energy of the system. We characterize the transition between these two regimes and show the peculiar features that distinguish square from rectangular samples. The results for our model bilayer system may help explaining morphing in more complex systems made of active materials.

%B International Journal of Mechanical Sciences %V 149 %P 481-486 %G eng %U https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0020740317311761 %R https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijmecsci.2017.08.049 %0 Journal Article %J Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences %D 2017 %T Kinematics of flagellar swimming in Euglena gracilis: Helical trajectories and flagellar shapes %A Massimiliano Rossi %A Giancarlo Cicconofri %A Alfred Beran %A Giovanni Noselli %A Antonio DeSimone %X Active flagella provide the propulsion mechanism for a large variety of swimming eukaryotic microorganisms, from protists to sperm cells. Planar and helical beating patterns of these structures are recurrent and widely studied. The fast spinning motion of the locomotory flagellum of the alga Euglena gracilis constitutes a remarkable exception to these patterns. We report a quantitative description of the 3D flagellar beating in swimming E. gracilis. Given their complexity, these shapes cannot be directly imaged with current microscopy techniques. We show how to overcome these limitations by developing a method to reconstruct in full the 3D kinematics of the cell from conventional 2D microscopy images, based on the exact characterization of the helical motion of the cell body.The flagellar swimming of euglenids, which are propelled by a single anterior flagellum, is characterized by a generalized helical motion. The 3D nature of this swimming motion, which lacks some of the symmetries enjoyed by more common model systems, and the complex flagellar beating shapes that power it make its quantitative description challenging. In this work, we provide a quantitative, 3D, highly resolved reconstruction of the swimming trajectories and flagellar shapes of specimens of Euglena gracilis. We achieved this task by using high-speed 2D image recordings taken with a conventional inverted microscope combined with a precise characterization of the helical motion of the cell body to lift the 2D data to 3D trajectories. The propulsion mechanism is discussed. Our results constitute a basis for future biophysical research on a relatively unexplored type of eukaryotic flagellar movement. %B Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences %V 114 %P 13085-13090 %G eng %U https://www.pnas.org/content/114/50/13085 %R 10.1073/pnas.1708064114 %0 Journal Article %J Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids %D 2015 %T Liquid crystal elastomer strips as soft crawlers %A Antonio DeSimone %A Paolo Gidoni %A Giovanni Noselli %K Crawling motility %K Directional surfaces %K Frictional interactions %K Liquid crystal elastomers %K Soft biomimetic robots %XIn this paper, we speculate on a possible application of Liquid Crystal Elastomers to the field of soft robotics. In particular, we study a concept for limbless locomotion that is amenable to miniaturisation. For this purpose, we formulate and solve the evolution equations for a strip of nematic elastomer, subject to directional frictional interactions with a flat solid substrate, and cyclically actuated by a spatially uniform, time-periodic stimulus (e.g., temperature change). The presence of frictional forces that are sensitive to the direction of sliding transforms reciprocal, ‘breathing-like’ deformations into directed forward motion. We derive formulas quantifying this motion in the case of distributed friction, by solving a differential inclusion for the displacement field. The simpler case of concentrated frictional interactions at the two ends of the strip is also solved, in order to provide a benchmark to compare the continuously distributed case with a finite-dimensional benchmark. We also provide explicit formulas for the axial force along the crawler body.

%B Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids %V 84 %P 254 - 272 %G eng %U http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022509615300430 %R https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmps.2015.07.017 %0 Journal Article %J International Journal of Non-Linear Mechanics %D 2014 %T Crawling on directional surfaces %A Paolo Gidoni %A Giovanni Noselli %A Antonio DeSimone %K Bio-mimetic micro-robots %K Cell migration %K Crawling motility %K Directional surfaces %K Self-propulsion %XIn this paper we study crawling locomotion based on directional frictional interactions, namely, frictional forces that are sensitive to the sign of the sliding velocity. Surface interactions of this type are common in biology, where they arise from the presence of inclined hairs or scales at the crawler/substrate interface, leading to low resistance when sliding ‘along the grain’, and high resistance when sliding ‘against the grain’. This asymmetry can be exploited for locomotion, in a way analogous to what is done in cross-country skiing (classic style, diagonal stride). We focus on a model system, namely, a continuous one-dimensional crawler and provide a detailed study of the motion resulting from several strategies of shape change. In particular, we provide explicit formulae for the displacements attainable with reciprocal extensions and contractions (breathing), or through the propagation of extension or contraction waves. We believe that our results will prove particularly helpful for the study of biological crawling motility and for the design of bio-mimetic crawling robots.

%B International Journal of Non-Linear Mechanics %V 61 %P 65 - 73 %G eng %U http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0020746214000213 %R https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijnonlinmec.2014.01.012 %0 Journal Article %D 2014 %T Discrete one-dimensional crawlers on viscous substrates: achievable net displacements and their energy cost %A Giovanni Noselli %A Amabile Tatone %A Antonio DeSimone %K Cell migration %X We study model one-dimensional crawlers, namely, model mechanical systems that can achieve self-propulsion by controlled shape changes of their body (extension or contraction of portions of the body), thanks to frictional interactions with a rigid substrate. We evaluate the achievable net displacement and the related energetic cost for self-propulsion by discrete crawlers (i.e., whose body is made of a discrete number of contractile or extensile segments) moving on substrates with either a Newtonian (linear) or a Bingham-type (stick-slip) rheology. Our analysis is aimed at constructing the basic building blocks towards an integrative, multi-scale description of crawling cell motility. %I Elsevier %G en %U http://urania.sissa.it/xmlui/handle/1963/34449 %1 34591 %2 Mathematics %$ Submitted by gnoselli@sissa.it (gnoselli@sissa.it) on 2015-03-07T17:44:40Z No. of bitstreams: 1 N-link_crawlers.pdf: 1005838 bytes, checksum: 685d5b41e7de190ec65c60090d397f93 (MD5) %R 10.1016/j.mechrescom.2013.10.023 %0 Journal Article %J Proceedings of the Royal Society A 470, 20140333 (2014) %D 2014 %T A robotic crawler exploiting directional frictional interactions: experiments, numerics, and derivation of a reduced model %A Giovanni Noselli %A Antonio DeSimone %X We present experimental and numerical results for a model crawler which is able to extract net positional changes from reciprocal shape changes, i.e. ‘breathing-like’ deformations, thanks to directional, frictional interactions with a textured solid substrate, mediated by flexible inclined feet. We also present a simple reduced model that captures the essential features of the kinematics and energetics of the gait, and compare its predictions with the results from experiments and from numerical simulations. %B Proceedings of the Royal Society A 470, 20140333 (2014) %I Royal Society Publishing %G en %1 34594 %2 Mathematics %$ Submitted by gnoselli@sissa.it (gnoselli@sissa.it) on 2015-03-07T18:10:10Z No. of bitstreams: 1 bristle_crawlers.pdf: 9309327 bytes, checksum: 10f6df9814dd01c888aa9ec7836f1dff (MD5) %R 10.1098/rspa.2014.0333 %0 Journal Article %J International Journal of Non-Linear Mechanics 56, 142-147 (2013) %D 2013 %T Crawlers in viscous environments: linear vs nonlinear rheology %A Antonio DeSimone %A Federica Guarnieri %A Giovanni Noselli %A Amabile Tatone %X We study model self-propelled crawlers which derive their propulsive capabilities from the tangential resistance to motion offered by the environment. Two types of relationships between tangential forces and slip velocities are considered: a linear, Newtonian one and a nonlinear one of Bingham-type. Different behaviors result from the two different rheologies. These differences and their implications in terms of motility performance are discussed. Our aim is to develop new tools and insight for future studies of cell motility by crawling. %B International Journal of Non-Linear Mechanics 56, 142-147 (2013) %I Elsevier %G en %1 34590 %2 Mathematics %$ Submitted by gnoselli@sissa.it (gnoselli@sissa.it) on 2015-03-07T17:29:52Z No. of bitstreams: 1 viscous_crawlers.pdf: 887755 bytes, checksum: 6022e4160d2eced97b51326bf51e0827 (MD5) %R 10.1016/j.ijnonlinmec.2013.02.007