Scientists have capitalised on a technique of the 17th Century art of origami to discover some of its principles could lead to the creation of exotic materials.
The researchers from Cornell University, US, discovered how to use a well-known origami folding pattern called the Miura-ori to control fundamental physical properties of any thin sheet of material.
The Miura-ori contracts when it is squeezed unlike other materials which bulge.
The pattern can change the stiffness of a sheet of paper, so can be applied to any material which it is folded from.
The team modelled what the materials could look like and how they change and managed to create these structures which may be able to be recreated at a minute scale:
Jesse Silverberg from the university said that the technique brings together materials and ideas from a range of different backgrounds.
“We’re looking at an origami structure and using a language developed for understanding the mechanical properties of atomic crystals to talk about what we see here.
“Our work brings together origami, metamaterials, programmable matter, crystallography and more. It’s totally bizarre and unique to have so many of these ideas intersecting at the same time.”
Itai Cohen from the university said the process is similar to when a when a robotic Transformer, as depicted in films, changes.
“You can imagine a folded sheet of some material and popping in defects to make a stiff shield, or somehow deploying an object and giving it a rigid backbone.
“You can think of it as appendages that can be locked in place or a useful tool whose properties can be set once it has been deployed. In that way, it’s kind of like the transformers, where robots fold themselves up but unfurl, locked, into human form.”
The future for the technique could like in folding patterns that could snap into place.
They would then be able to perform mechanical functions when in place.