There is growing demand in industrialized and developing countries to provide people and structures with effective earthquake protection. Here, we employ architectured material concepts and a bio-inspired approach to trail-blaze a new path to seismic isolation. We develop a novel seismic isolator whose unit cell is formed by linkages that replicate the bones of human limbs. Deformable tendons connect the limb members to a central post carrying the vertical load, which can slide against the bottom plate of the system. While the displacement capacity of the device depends only on the geometry of the limbs, its vibration period is tuned by dynamically stretching the tendons in the nonlinear stress–strain regime, so as to avoid resonance with seismic excitations. This biomimetic, sliding–stretching isolator can be scaled to seismically protect infrastructure, buildings, artworks and equipment with customized properties and sustainable materials. It does not require heavy industry or expensive materials and is easily assembled from metallic parts and 3D-printed components.
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