SOFT-living and bioinspired systems

SOFT – complex Fluids & Solids


Living and Bioinspired Systems

This research topic at the cross-road of physics, engineering and biology addresses issues related to plant biomechanics, such as hydraulic signaling, gravity sensing or plant movements, as well as fluid/solid couplings in soft structures inspired by living systems. We address these questions using tools and concepts from solid mechanics, fluid mechanics and soft condensed matter physics, in close collaboration with biologists and agronomists.


Soft Bio-Actuation

Participants: Joel Marthelot
Collaboration: P.-T. Brun (LE Lab Princeton), Raphaël Clément (IBDM), Cédric Bellis (LMA), Marie-Julie Dalbe (IRPHE)
PhD/post-doc: Ignacio Andrade (MOMENTUM post-doc), Simon Hadjaje

Programming the motion of soft structures that deploy, change shape, or react passively to external stimuli is a challenge for conventional engineering methods. In biological systems, complex actuation often relies on networks or collective dynamics of elementary units that present a very simple and robust drive mechanism. The main goal of the Soft bio actuation group is to identify and rationalize these resilient, reliable and energy saving actuation strategies, and to develop technological applications by mimicking their functions (see project webpage)

Mechano-perception and hydraulic signals in plants

Participants: Yoël Forterre, Geoffroy Guena
Collaboration: PIAF/INRA Clermont Ferrand (Eric Badel)
PhD/post-doc: Jean-François Louf (2012-2015, PhD grant Labex/ministère), Coraline LLorens (ERC PLANTMOVE post-doc), Aloïs de Rivas (ERC PLANTMOVE post-doc)

Plants can detect mechanical stimuli such as wind or touch and respond to these stimuli by modifying their development and growth – a process called thigmo-morphogenesis. A fascinating feature of this mechanical-induced-growth response is that it is not only local, but also non-local: bending locally a stem or a branch can induce a very rapid (~ min) modification of the growth far away from the stimulated area. We address the possibility that such long-signalling in plants could occur via the propagation of fast hydraulic signals, arising from a coupling between tissue deformation and water flow in the conducting vessels. To this end, we combine experiments on biomimetic poroelastic branches and experiments on real plants, from tree branches to the model plant Arabidopsis (see also ERC PLANTMOVE projet).

Plants gravisensing

Participants: Yoël Forterre, Olivier Pouliquen
Collaboration: PIAF/INRA Clermont Ferrand (B. Moulia, V. Legué)
PhD/post-doc: Hugo Chauvet (2014-2018, ANR GRAPP and ERC PLANTMOVE post-doc), Antoine Berut (2015-2017, ERC PLANTMOVE post-doc), Nicolas Levernier (ERC PLANTMOVE post-doc)

Gravity perception by plants plays a key role in their development and adaptation to environmental change, from the moment a shoot grows upward after germination to the control of the final posture. The sensor of gravity in plants occurs in specific cells, the statocytes, which contains starch-rich grains, called statoliths, that sediment and form miniature granular piles at the bottom of the cells. We address the link between the microscopic dynamics of the statoliths and the macroscopic gravitropic response by combing vizualization of statolith flow at the cellular level with experiments at the plant scale. We also build biomimetic systems that mimic statocytes using microfluidic techniques and Brownian particles in PDMS cells (see also ERC PLANTMOVE projet).

Rapid movements in plants

Participants: Yoël Forterre
Collaboration: Jacques Dumais (Harvard USA)
PhD/post-doc: Mathieu Colombani (2010-2013, grant from Ministère), Jeongeun Ryu (ERC PLANTMOVE post-doc)

Plants can generate fast movements when mechanically stimulated, and use this ability to disperse their seeds, protect themselves against predators or get extra-nutrients. While some of these motions involve a passive elastic instability, much less is known about the driving force used by plants to generate fast active movements. We try to unveil the physical mechanisms responsible for fast actuation in plants by combining mechanical and fluid measurements at the organ, tissue and cellular level. We use the Venus flytrap as a model plant to address the main hypotheses found in the literature, namely rapid change of turgor pressure or fast cell wall modifications (see also ERC PLANTMOVE projet).


  • K.H. Jensen, Y. Forterre (Eds) (2022) “Soft Matter in Plants: from Biophysics to Biomimetics”. Royal Society of Chemistry Book, 244 pages. (
  • Y. Forterre “Basic soft matter for plants”, in “Soft Matter in Plants: from Biophysics to biomimetics” eds. KH. jensen, Y. Forterre, Royal Society of Chemistry (2022) pdf
  • L. Cai, J. Marthelot and P.-T. Brun. Instability mediated self-templating drop crystals. Science Advances, 8, eabq0828 (2022)
  • M. Badaoui, G. Kresge, C. Ushay, J. Marthelot and P.-T. Brun. Formation of pixelated elastic films via capillary suction of curable elastomers in templated Hele-Shaw cells. Advanced Materials, 34:27, 2270200 (2022)
  • TJ. Jones, E. Jambon-Puillet, J. Marthelot, PT. Brun. Bubble casting soft robotics. Nature 599 229 (2021) 10.1038/s41586-021-04029-6
  • N. Levernier, O. Pouliquen, Y. Forterre. An Integrative Model of Plant Gravitropism Linking Statoliths Position and Auxin Transport. Front. Plant Science. 12 651928 (2021) 10.3389/fpls.2021.651928
  • JF. Fuentealba, J. Marthelot, B. Roman, F. Melo. Collaborative Oscillatory Fracture. Phys. Rev. Lett. 124 174102 (2020) 10.1103/PhysRevLett.124.174102
  • LZ. Cai, J. Marthelot, C. Falcon, PM. Reis, PT. Brun. Printing on liquid elastomers. Soft Matter. 16 3137-3142 (2020) 10.1039/c9sm02452b
  • SG. Prasath, J. Marthelot, N. Menon, R. Govindarajan. Wetting and wrapping of a floating droplet by a thin elastic filament. Soft Matter 17 1497-1504 (2021) 10.1039/d0sm01863e
  • SG. Prasath, J. Marthelot, R. Govindarajan, N. Menon. Shapes of a filament on the surface of a bubble. Proc. Roy. Soc. A 477 20210353 (2021) 10.1098/rspa.2021.0353 
  • P. Martinez, I. Papagiannouli, D. Descamps, S. Petit, J. Marthelot, A. Levy, B. Fabre, JB. Dory, N. Bernier, JY. Raty, P. Noe, J. Gaudin. Laser Generation of Sub-Micrometer Wrinkles in a Chalcogenide Glass Film as Physical Unclonable Functions Advance Materials 32 2003032 (2020) 10.1002/adma.202003032
  • IB Cheikh, G Parry, D Dalmas, R Estevez, J Marthelot. Analysis of the multi-cracking mechanism of brittle thin films on elastic-plastic substrates. International Journal of Solids and Structures 180, 176-188 (2019)
  • A. Berut, O. Pouliquen, Y. Forterre. Brownian Granular Flows Down Heaps. Phys. Rev. Lett. 123 248005 (2019) 10.1103/PhysRevLett.123.248005
  • L Cai, J Marthelot, PT Brun. An unbounded approach to microfluidics using the Rayleigh–Plateau instability of viscous threads directly drawn in a bath. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116 (46), 22966-22971 (2019)
  • J Schleifer, J Marthelot, TJ Jones, PT Brun. The fingerprint of a flow: Wrinkle patterns in nonuniform coatings on pre-stretched soft foundations. Soft Matter 15 (6), 1405-1412 (2019)
  • H. Chauvet, B. Moulia, V. Legué, Y. Forterre, O. Pouliquen. Revealing the hierarchy of processes and time-scales that control the tropic response of shoots to gravi-stimulations. Journal of Experimental Botany 70, 1955-1967 (2019) 10.1093/jxb/erz027
  • A. Bérut, H. Chauvet, V. Legué, B. Moulia, O. Pouliquen, Y. Forterre. Gravisensors in plant cells behave like an active granular liquid. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115, 5123-5128 (2018) 10.1073/pnas.1801895115
  • J.-F. Louf, G. Guéna, E. Badel, Y. Forterre. Hydraulic signals in biomimetic branches. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114, 11034-11039 (2017) 10.1073/pnas.1707675114
  • O. Pouliquen, Y. Forterre, A. Bérut, H. Chauvet, F. Bizet, V. Legué, B. Moulia. A new scenario for gravity detection in plants: the position sensor hypothesis. Physical Biology 14, 035005 (2017) 10.1088/1478-3975/aa6876
  • H. Chauvet, O. Pouliquen, Y. Forterre, V. Legué, B. Moulia. Inclination not force is sensed by plants during shoot gravitropism. Scientific Reports 6, 35431 (2016) 10.1038/srep35431
  • T. Barois, L. Tadrist, C. Quilliet, Y. Forterre. How a Curved Elastic Strip Opens. Physical Review Letters, 113, 214301 (2014) 10.1103/PhysRevLett.113.214301
  • Y. Forterre. Slow, fast and furious: understanding the physics of plant movements. Journal of Experimental Botany, 64, 4745–4760 (2013) 10.1093/jxb/ert230
  • J. Dumais, Y. Forterre. “Vegetable Dynamicks”: The Role of Water in Plant Movements. Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics 44, 453-478 (2012) 10.1146/annurev-fluid-120710-101200
  • M. Colombani, Y. Forterre. Biomechanics of rapid movements in plants: poroelastic measurements at the cell scale, Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering 14:sup1, 115-117 (2011) 10.1080/10255842.2011.593757
  • Y. Forterre, J. Dumais. Generating Helices in Nature. Science 333, 1715-1716 (2011) 10.1126/science.1210734
  • V. Bonhomme, H. Pelloux‐Prayer, E. Jousselin, Y. Forterre, J‐J. Labat, L. Gaume. Slippery or sticky? Functional diversity in the trapping strategy of Nepenthes carnivorous plants. New Phytologist 191, 545-554 (2011) 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2011.03696.x
  • L. Gaume L, Y. Forterre. A Viscoelastic Deadly Fluid in Carnivorous Pitcher Plants. PLOS ONE 2(11): e1185 (2007) 10.1371/journal.pone.0001185
  • Y. Forterre, J. Skotheim, J. Dumais, L. Mahadevan. How the Venus flytrap snaps. Nature 433, 421–425 (2005) 10.1038/nature03185


ERC PLANTMOVE (2015-2020)


ANR GRAPP (2014-2018)

ANR ARTIS (2013-2017)

LABEX MEC (2011-2019)