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Tensegrity structures are spatial structures composed of elements in tension and compression in a state of self-equilibrium that controls their stability, structural behavior as well as configuration (form and geometry). They are materially and mechanically efficient systems that can combine actuators with structural elements. In addition, planar tensegrity structures can be used as topological models. Although the form-finding and analysis of tensegrity structures has received significant interest and various control solutions have been successfully identified, tensegrity structures are still not fully explored. A novel method for the generation of tensegrity structures is under development. The method is based on elementary units and inspired by the multiplication mechanisms of unicellular organisms allowing designers to control the topology, shape, and self-stress state(s) in a tensegrity structure.
Morphogenesis of the Stanford bunny using tensegrity cellular multiplication (330 cells and 548 self-stress states).
Resilient coastal structures and cities
Coastal cities play a critical role in the global economy yet they are increasingly being exposed to natural hazards and disasters, such as hurricanes, recurrent flooding, and sea-level rise. These events can directly impact critical coastal infrastructure and the built environment, thus adversely affecting the safety and well-being of urban residents. Through analytical, numerical and experimental modeling the impact of these events on coastal cities is quantified, while green and grey solutions that protect and enhance the damage-tolerance of infrastructure and the built environment are investigated.
Experimental testing at the SUrge STructure Atmosphere INteraction Facility (SUSTAIN).
Form-finding and analysis
Form finding describes the forward process in which parameters, such as topology and support conditions, are controlled to find a geometry which is in static equilibrium with a specific set of design loads. As a result, the obtained structures exhibit material and structural efficiency. Numerical form-finding and analysis methods include methods such as the force density, dynamic relaxation, thrust network analysis and non-linear finite element approaches.
Form-finding and analysis of a Dielectric Elastomer Minimum-Energy Structure (DEMES).
Structurally integrated adaptive structures
Adaptive structures include actuated elements that allow them to change state or characteristics in a controlled manner, while active structures combine actuated elements with sensors (feedback control) to perform such changes. Active structures are a potential solution to engineering challenges such as adaptive/resilient architecture, changing/challenging environments (including hazard mitigation) and sustainability.
Numerical form-finding and analysis methods can be combined with shape and structural behavioral constraints to develop high performing adaptive structures that integrate active elements within their structural system. Examples of structurally integrated adaptive structures are actuated tensegrity and shell structures.
An active deployable tensegrity structure at IMAC, EPFL (Switzerland).
Structural design and optimization
Structures are designed to safisfy safety and serviceability criteria. Traditional design strategies are based on iterative approaches similar to gradient search. However, the solutions that satisfy these criteria may not be unique. Moreover, the size and complexity of the corresponding design spaces is often unknown and large. Analysis and optimization techniques are thus required to identify design solutions for novel structures.
Illustration of suspended footbridge configurations.