Natural fibres actuators for smart bio-inspired hygromorph biocomposites

Antoine Le Duigou, Samuel Requile, Johnny Beaugrand, Fabrizio Scarpa, Mickael Castro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)
516 Downloads (Pure)


Hygromorph biocomposite (HBC) actuators make use of the transport properties of plant fibres to generate an out-of-plane displacement when a moisture gradient is present. HBC actuators possess a design based on the bilayer configuration of natural hygromorph actuators (like Pine cone, Wheat awn, Selaginella lepidophyll). In this work we present a series of design guidelines for HBCs with improved performance, low environmental footprints and high durability in severe environments. We develop a theoretical actuating response (curvature) formulation of Maleic Anhydride PolyPropylene (MAPP)/plant fibres based on bimetallic actuators theory. The actuation response is evaluated as a function of the fibre type (flax, jute, kenaf and coir). We demonstrate that the actuation is directly related to the fibre microstructure and its biochemical composition. The jute and flax fibres appear to be the best candidates for use in HBCs. Flax/MAPP and jute/MAPP HBCs exhibit similar actuating behaviours during the sorption phase (amplitude and speed), but different desorption characteristics due to the combined effect of the lumen size, fibre division and biochemical composition on the desorption mechanism. During hygromechanical fatigue tests the jute/MAPP HBCs exhibit a drastic improvement in durability compared to their flax counterparts. We also provide a demonstration on how HBCs can be used to trigger deployment of more complex structures based on Origami and Kirigami designs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number125009
Number of pages12
JournalSmart Materials and Structures
Issue number12
Early online date2 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • Natural fibres
  • biocomposite
  • actuator
  • moisture
  • morphing


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