Snapping Surfaces for Sensors and Adhesion Control

Primary Inventors: 

This invention involves creating shape transition at responsive interfaces or surfaces by employing simple features such as shells, plates or columns, that are integrated into a material's surface or interface through simple processes of molding or self-assembly.  Upon application of a given stimulus (e.g. weight, light, chemical, thermal) the structures will spontaneously transform their shape due to the onset of elastic instability.  This instability is a "snap-through" event which induces the shape transition of the material surface.


The applied science that will result from this work can utilize the novel shape transition to serve several purposes. For example, it can cause the immediate de-bonding of a coating that is applied above these structures; it can activate an electrical signal to trigger a warning signal; it can change the reflectivity of a surface; or it can simply change the adhesion quality of a surface, among many other applications. Potential commercial uses include on-command release of coatings, chemical sensors for packaging or coatings, anti-fouling coatings, tunable adhesives, "smart" adhesives, true pressure-sensitive adhesives, and release strategies for tissue engineering.


This invention has several key advantages for stimuli-responsive surface

  1. Sensitivity - the dimensions of the buckling structures and the residual stress built into the material surface can cause buckling to occur under a very small change in environmental conditions.
  2. Speed - an example of the spherical shell illustrated a transition that occurs within 0.01 seconds.
  3. Magnitude of change - the changes in adhesion or signal to noise for sensors can be very high due to the defined speed and force with which these buckling instabilities occur.
  4. Versatility - structures can be designed on several length scales, using a wide-variety of materials for a wide-range of applications.
  5. Ease of Development - processes already exist for covering surfaces with similar structures and new processes can be developed in a straightforward manner.
Licensing Status: 
Available for Licensing or research collaboration
Patent Status: 

Patent Pending - view published application

UMA 06-06
For More Information: 

Ling X. Shen, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Licensing Officer
Commercial Ventures & Intellectual Property
Phone: 413-545-5276