Statistical reprogramming of macroscopic self-assembly with dynamic boundaries

Utku Culha, Zoey Davidson, Max Mastrangeli, Metin Sitti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
46 Downloads (Pure)


Self-assembly is a ubiquitous process that can generate complex and functional structures via local interactions among a large set of simpler components. The ability to program the self-assembly pathway of component sets elucidates fundamental physics and enables alternative competitive fabrication technologies. Reprogrammability offers further opportunities for tuning structural and material properties but requires reversible selection from multistable self-assembling patterns, which remains a challenge. Here, we show statistical reprogramming of two-dimensional (2D), noncompact self-assembled structures by the dynamic confinement of orbitally shaken and magnetically repulsive millimeter-scale particles. Under a constant shaking regime, we control the rate of radius change of an assembly arena via moving hard boundaries and select among a finite set of self-assembled patterns repeatably and reversibly. By temporarily trapping particles in topologically identified stable states, we also demonstrate 2D reprogrammable stiffness and three-dimensional (3D) magnetic clutching of the self-assembled structures. Our reprogrammable system has prospective implications for the design of granular materials in a multitude of physical scales where out-of-equilibrium self-assembly can be realized with different numbers or types of particles. Our dynamic boundary regulation may also enable robust bottom-up control strategies for novel robotic assembly applications by designing more complex spatiotemporal interactions using mobile robots.
Original languageEnglish
Article number21
Pages (from-to)11306-11313
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2020


  • programmable self-assembly
  • mechanism design
  • dynamic confinement control
  • Programmable self-assembly
  • Mechanism design
  • Dynamic confinement control


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