Adaptive joints with variable stiffness: Strategically arranged materials with transduction properties

Henriette Bier, Qinyu Wang, Patrick Teuffel, Gennaro Senatore

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The environment around buildings keeps changing, while the static design solutions of buildings cannot perform well during the whole service life. In order to improve structural performances including strength (i.e. avoid collapse) and serviceability, adaptive structures are likely to establish as one of future trends in both research and application for the built environment. This project aims to synthesize a type of structural joints with variable stiffness capabilities. Stiffness variation is achieved by strategically arranged materials with transduction properties. Shape memory polymers (SMPs) feature large variation of stiffness between a glassy and a rubbery state, which makes them good candidates for application in shape control of adaptive structures. The structures will change themselves into optimal shapes corresponding to different load conditions. However, large shape changes require significant flexibility of the joints because their fixity can affect load-path and shape control. To address this problem, a variable stiffness joint is proposed. During shape/load-path control, the joint reduces its stiffness so that required deformation patterns can be achieved with low actuation energy. After shape control the joint recovers rigidity. Experimental studies showed the potential for application of joints with variable stiffness in adaptive structures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-16
Number of pages6
Issue number2 #5
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Energy Innovation #5: 4TU.BOUW Lighthouse projects + PDEng
ISBN 978-94-6366-246-8


  • Adaptive
  • Changes
  • Control
  • Joint
  • Load
  • Shape
  • Stiffness
  • Structures


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