Bas Overvelde

Applied Mathematics Researcher – Magic materials make soft robots

Magic materials make soft robots

Reconfigurable structures can change their function by changing their shape. Such structures can be used in new, so called meta-materials with characteristics that are not achievable with chemistry alone. These meta-materials are made by linking flexible cubes together in such a way that the structure can morph in many different shapes. The cubes are considered to be the robots of tomorrow.

When Bas Overvelde demonstrates the easy transition from one form to another in a model it looks like magic. But in reality what he shows is based on pure mathematical science. Between 2004 and 2012, Overvelde studied applied physics and mechanical engineering at the Delft University of Technology, where he received both his BSc and MSc degrees in mechanical engineering cum laude.

In April 2016, Overvelde finished his PhD in applied mathematics at Harvard University under the direction of professor Katia Bertoldi at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. His research focused on harnessing compliance and instabilities in engineered structural materials and devices to achieve function. 

Today, Overvelde is leading his Soft Robotic Matter group at AMOLF, a Dutch physics research institute in Amsterdam. The Soft Robotic Matter group focuses on the design, fabrication and fundamental understanding of materials that are capable of autonomously adapting to – and even harnessing – variations in their environment. This line of research uniquely combines concepts from soft robotics and architected materials, providing new and exciting opportunities in the design of compliant structures and devices with highly non-linear behavior.

Robots, Origami, meta-materials, AMOLF, Mathematics, Netherlands PINC.18