Tuning Buckling Behaviors in Magnetically Active Structures: Topology Optimization and Experimental Validation

Zhi Zhao, Chao Wang, Xiaojia Shelly Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Buckling, a phenomenon historically considered undesirable, has recently been harnessed to enable innovative functionalities in materials and structures. While approaches to achieve specific buckling behaviors are widely studied, tuning these behaviors in fabricated structures without altering their geometry remains a major challenge. Here, we introduce an inverse design approach to tune buckling behavior in magnetically active structures through the variation of applied magnetic stimuli. Our proposed magneto-mechanical topology optimization formulation not only generates the geometry and magnetization distribution of these structures but also informs how the external magnetic fields should be applied to control their buckling behaviors. By utilizing the proposed strategy, we discover magnetically active structures showcasing a broad spectrum of tunable buckling mechanisms, including programmable peak forces and buckling displacements, as well as controllable mechano- and magneto-induced bistability. Furthermore, we experimentally demonstrate that multiple unit designs can be assembled into architectures, resulting in tunable multistability and programmable buckling sequences under distinct applied magnetic fields. By employing a hybrid fabrication method, we manufacture and experimentally validate the generated designs and architectures, confirming their ability to exhibit precisely programmed and tunable buckling behaviors. This research contributes to the advancement of multifunctional materials and structures that harness buckling phenomena, unlocking transformative potential for various applications, including robotics, energy harvesting, and deployable and reconfigurable devices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number091006
JournalJournal of Applied Mechanics, Transactions ASME
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • experimental validation
  • magnetic soft materials
  • programmable multistability
  • topology optimization
  • tunable magneto-mechanical buckling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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