Past Events

International Conference on Programmable Materials 2020


27-29 April 2020, Berlin


Cancellation of ProgMatCon2020 due to spread of Covid-19

In light of the spread of COVID-19, we have made the decision to cancel the ProgMatCon2020 Conference. Our main concern is the health and safety of our participants and everyone who helps set ProgMatCon2020 up.



The conference would have taken place at the H4 Hotel Berlin Alexanderplatz, April 27-29, 2020. Eight different symposia would have been hosted by the conference.  In addition, there would have been five interesting plenary talks as well as an exciting social program, e.g. the conference dinner at the Berlin TV Tower.



  • Optimal design of mechanical metamaterials and bionic structures
  • Programmable surface interactions and friction
  • Programmable synthesis
  • Shape memory polymers
  • Manufacturing and upscaling
  • Design ideas from nature
  • Applications and design with programmable materials
  • Mechanical metamaterials


Plenary Speakers

Martin van Hecke

FOM Institute AMOLF, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

"Complex Mechanical Metamaterials"

Abstract: The structural complexity of metamaterials is limitless, but in practice, most attention has focussed on periodic architectures, leading to relatively simple features. Here we discuss structurally complex metamaterials, which exhibit spatially textured and and sequential behavior. First, we introduce a combinatorial approach that allows to design aperiodic, yet frustration-free, mechanical metamaterials, and discuss the physics of a textured 3D metamaterial, as well as a multi-shape origami-based metamaterial. Second, we show how to design and create metamaterials that translate a global uniform compression into a precise multistep pathway of reconfigurations. There innovations open new avenues towards mechanical metamaterials with unusual order and machine-like functionalities.

Bio: Martin van Hecke got his PhD in theoretical physics in 1996 at the University of Leiden. Since then he has worked on a broad range of topic in soft matter, including nonlinear dynamics, granular media, rheology, jamming and metamaterials, combining experiments, simulations and theory. The common thread in all this works is the fascination for the emergence of complex behavior in seemingly simple systems. In 2008 he was appointed as professor in the ‘organization of disordered media’ in Leiden and in 2014 he became head of the newly established 'Designer Matter' department at AMOLF, Amsterdam. His main current fascination is to embed complex functionalities in architected materials.


Cecilia Laschi

The BioRobotics Institute, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa, Italy

"New materials for robotics"

Abstract: Soft robotics is a young yet promising approach to develop deformable robots that can adapt to the environment and exploit interaction for accomplishing real-world tasks. The use of soft materials for building robots is recognized as one of the current challenges for pushing the boundaries of robotics technologies and building robotic systems for service tasks in natural environments. Widely growing worldwide, soft robotics has produced already interesting achievements in terms of technologies for actuation, sensing, control, and many more. In addition to allowing more applications for robots, soft robotics technologies are enabling robot abilities that were not possible before. They open up new scenarios for robotics.

Bio: Cecilia Laschi is Full Professor of Biorobotics at the BioRobotics Institute of the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa, Italy. Her research interests are in the field of soft robotics, a young research area that she pioneered and contributed to develop at international level, including its applications in marine robotics and in the biomedical field. She is member of the IEEE, of the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS), and of the Robotics & Automation Society (RAS), where she served as elected AdCom member and currently is Co-Chair of the TC on Soft Robotics. She founded and served as General Chair for the IEEE-RAS First International Conference on Soft Robotics in Livorno, in April 24-28, 2018.


Jean-Francois Lutz

ICS Straßbourg, Straßbourg, France

"Digital Polymers: Emergence of a new class of functional macromolecules"

Abstract: It has been shown in recent years that information can be stored at the molecular level in synthetic polymers. To achieve such a property, different comonomers are used as a molecular alphabet and assembled together into a defined information sequence. For instance, an alphabet based on two different monomers allows writing of binary information in a linear polymer chain. Using solid-phase iterative chemistry, a wide variety of uniform sequence-defined digital polymers can be synthesized. Moreover, the information stored in these chains can be easily decoded by tandem mass spectrometry. This new class of man-made informational macromolecules opens up interesting avenues in applied polymer science, for example in the fields of data storage and anti-counterfeiting technologies, but also for the development of artificial biological systems.

Bio: Dr. Jean-François Lutz is CNRS research director and deputy director of the Institut Charles Sadron located in Strasbourg, France. He received his doctoral degree from the University of Montpellier II in 2000 and his habilitation degree from the University of Potsdam in 2009. Before joining the CNRS, he was post-doctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University and afterwards leader of the research group Nanotechnology for Life Science at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research. His current research interests include the design of man-made informational macromolecules and their use for technological applications and artificial biology. He is author of over 200 publications including 10 patents and is listed since 2015 as an ISI Highly Cited Researcher (Clarivate Analytics) in the category Chemistry. Among several other awards, he has received in 2018 the Silver Medal of the French CNRS.


Mark Miodownik

Materials and Society, University College London, London, UK

"Self Repairing Cities - an environmental imperative"

Abstract: We live in a world full of wonderful stuff that we use to build modern cities. But so much of human history has been taken up with inventing and making this new stuff, that looking after it all has got rather onerous. Our cars are more reliable, more economical, and more comfortable, but they have also become more complicated – so that repairing them requires specialist diagnostic equipment. Similarly, it is beyond most people’s ability to repair their phone when it breaks. Even manufacturers would rather replace something than mend it. Infrastructure still gets fixed but this too is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive. In this talk I discuss our work creating self-repairing materials and engineering systems; the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to achieve this goal; and the environmental dividends of success.

Bio: Mark Miodownik is the UCL Professor of Materials & Society.  He received his Ph.D in turbine jet engine alloys from Oxford University, and has worked as a materials engineer in the USA, Ireland and the UK. For more than fifteen years he has championed materials science research that links to the arts and humanities, medicine, and society. This culminated in the establishment of the UCL Institute of Making, where he is a director and runs the research programme.  Mark is an award winning author and regularly presents BBC TV and radio programmes on materials science and engineering.  In 2014 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. In 2018 he was awarded an MBE for services to materials science, engineering and broadcasting.


Ole Sigmund

Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Denmark

"Systematic design of programmable materials by topology optimization"

Abstract: Programmable materials may be conceived by intuition, inspiration from nature or systematically by inverse design methods. The most general and flexible inverse design approach is called topology optimization and consist in identifying the point-wise local distribution of one or more material phases in a periodic microstructure that satisfies a prescribed material response function. The topology optimization approach is based on repeated finite element analyses of the base cell, gradient evaluations, and material redistributions based on mathematical programming concepts. Analyses may include single or multiphysics situations, and linear or non-linear modelling and the main optimization goal may be supplemented with constraints concerning minimum length-scales, manufacturabiltity or cost.

The talk will give an overview of topology optimization for multifunctional and programmable material design and include examples of systematic design of non-linear auxetics, negative thermal expansion, acoustic/optical band gaps, topological insulators and other emerging applications.

Bio: Ole Sigmund is a Professor and Villum Investigator at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Technical University of Denmark (DTU). He obtained his Ph.D.-degree 1994 and Habilitation in 2001 and has held research positions at University of Essen and Princeton University. He is a member of the Danish Academy of Technical Sciences and the Royal Academy of Science and Letters (Denmark) and is the former President (2011-15, now EC member) of ISSMO (International Society of Structural and Multidisciplinary Optimization) and former Chairman of DCAMM (Danish Center for Applied Mathematics and Mechanics, 2004-2010). Together with Noboru Kikuchi and Martin Bendsøe, Ole Sigmund is one of the founders and main contributors to the development of topology optimization methods in academia and industry. Present research interests include theoretical extensions and applications of topology optimization methods to mechanics and multiphysics problems under the consideration of manufacturing constraints and multiple length scales. Ole Sigmund has authored more than 260 international journal papers which are cited more than 15,200 times in the ISI Science Citation Index and his H-index is 58.