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Abstract

Tuning mechanical properties of and fluid flow through open-cell solid structures is a challenge for material science, in particular for the design of porous structures used as artificial bone scaffolds in tissue engineering. We present a method to tune the effective elastic properties of custom-designed open-cell solid foams and bone scaffold geometries by almost an order of magnitude while approximately preserving the pore space geometry and hence fluid transport properties. This strong response is achieved by a change of topology and node coordination of a network-like geometry underlying the scaffold design. Each node of a four-coordinated network is disconnected with probability p into two two-coordinated nodes, yielding network geometries that change continuously from foam- or network-like cellular structures to entangled fiber bundles. We demonstrate that increasing p leads to a strong, approximately exponential decay of mechanical stiffness while leaving the pore space geometry largely unchanged. This result is obtained by both voxel-based finite element methods and compression experiments on laser sintered models. The physical effects of randomizing network topology suggest a new design paradigm for solid foams, with adjustable mechanical properties.