Capillary induced self-assembly of thin foils into 3D structures

Huan Li, Xiaoying Guo, Ralph G. Nuzzo, K. Jimmy Hsia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Self-assembly of complex structures is common in nature. Self-assembly principles provide a promising way to fabricate three-dimensional, micro- or millimeter scale devices. In the present paper, we present a generalized analytical study of the self-folding of thin plates into deterministic 3D shapes through fluidsolid interactions. Based on the beam theory, a mechanics model is developed, incorporating the two competing componentsa capillary force promoting folding and the bending rigidity of the foil that resists folding into a 3D structure. Through an equivalence argument of thin foils of different geometry, an effective folding parameter, which uniquely characterizes the driving force for folding, has been identified. A criterion for spontaneous folding of any shaped 2D patterned foil based on the effective folding parameter is thus established. The model predictions show excellent agreement with experimental measurements made on a variety of materials, indicating that the assumptions used in the analysis arevalid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2033-2042
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • Bending rigidity
  • Capillary force
  • Folding
  • Self-assembly
  • Thin films

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Capillary induced self-assembly of thin foils into 3D structures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this