Biohybrid Variable-Stiffness Soft Actuators that Self-Create Bone

Danfeng Cao, Jose G. Martinez, Emilio Satoshi Hara, Edwin W.H. Jager

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Inspired by the dynamic process of initial bone development, in which a soft tissue turns into a solid load-bearing structure, the fabrication, optimization, and characterization of bioinduced variable-stiffness actuators that can morph in various shapes and change their properties from soft to rigid are hereby presented. Bilayer devices are prepared by combining the electromechanically active properties of polypyrrole with the compliant behavior of alginate gels that are uniquely functionalized with cell-derived plasma membrane nanofragments (PMNFs), previously shown to mineralize within 2 days, which promotes the mineralization in the gel layer to achieve the soft to stiff change by growing their own bone. The mineralized actuator shows an evident frozen state compared to the movement before mineralization. Next, patterned devices show programmed directional and fixated morphing. These variable-stiffness devices can wrap around and, after the PMNF-induced mineralization in and on the gel layer, adhere and integrate onto bone tissue. The developed biohybrid variable-stiffness actuators can be used in soft (micro-)robotics and as potential tools for bone repair or bone tissue engineering.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2107345
JournalAdvanced Materials
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Feb 24 2022


  • actuators
  • biohybrids
  • mineralization
  • variable stiffness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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