Soft topological lattice wheels

William Zunker, Stefano Gonella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigate the large deformation and extreme load-management capabilities of a soft topologically polarized kagome lattice mapped to a cylindrical domain through the problem of a lattice wheel rolling on an irregular surface. We test the surface–lattice interaction experimentally by subjecting a 3D-printed topological lattice wheel prototype to localized and distributed boundary loads. This investigation reveals a dichotomy in the force transfer between the two loading scenarios, whereby localized loads are absorbed with limited stress penetration into the bulk and small force transfer to the wheel axle, compared to distributed loads. Through numerical simulations, we compare the lattice wheel against a baseline solid wheel to highlight the unique stress management opportunities offered by the lattice configuration. These findings promote the design of rolling objects enabled by topological mechanics, in which a surplus of softness, activated by local asperities, can coexist with a globally stiff response to distributed loads that ensures satisfactory load-bearing capabilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101344
JournalExtreme Mechanics Letters
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge the support of the National Science Foundation, USA (NSF Grant No. EFRI-1741618 ). The authors would like to thank Lauren Linderman for graciously allowing extended used of experimental equipment, Xiaoming Mao for useful discussions regarding topological mechanics, and David Zunker for his help on the experimental work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Cylindrical mapping
  • Kagome lattice wheel
  • Mechanical metamaterial
  • Stiff–soft response
  • Topological polarization


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