Topologically protected steady cycles in an icelike mechanical metamaterial

Carl Merrigan*, Cristiano Nisoli, Yair Shokef

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Competing ground states may lead to topologically constrained excitations such as domain walls or quasiparticles, which govern metastable states and their dynamics. Domain walls and more exotic topological excitations are well studied in magnetic systems such as artificial spin ice, in which nanoscale magnetic dipoles are placed on geometrically frustrated lattices, giving rise to highly degenerate ground states. We propose a mechanical spin-ice constructed from a lattice of floppy, bistable square unit cells. We compare the domain wall excitations that arise in this metamaterial to their magnetic counterparts, finding that new behaviors emerge in this overdamped mechanical system. By tuning the ratios of the internal elements of the unit cell, we control the curvature and propagation speed of internal domain walls. We change the domain wall morphology from a binary, strictly spinlike regime, to a more continuous, elastic regime. In the elastic regime, we inject, manipulate, and expel domain walls via textured forcing at the boundaries. The system exhibits dynamical hysteresis, and we find a first-order dynamical transition as a function of the driving frequency. We demonstrate a forcing protocol that produces multiple, topologically distinct steady cycles, which are protected by the differences in their internal domain wall arrangements. These distinct steady cycles rapidly proliferate as the complexity of the applied forcing texture is increased, thus suggesting that such mechanical systems could serve as useful model systems to study multistability, glassiness, and memory in materials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number023174
JournalPhysical Review Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021


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