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Using Origami and Kirigami to Inspire Reconfigurable Yet Structural Materials

Researchers developed metamaterials that can flat-fold and lock into positions that remain stiff

McGill University

Origami, the Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes and figures, has long served as inspiration for industrial design. The concept of folding has been used to build reconfigurable structures, which change their function by changing their shape. These structures are promising for applications such as nanorobots for drug delivery, foldable solar panels for aerospace, and morphable cladding and shading for architecture. However, most of these designs cannot bear heavy loads. Those that can are only able to do so in a certain direction, collapsing along the direction in which they fold. This limits their use as structural materials.

A study by a group of McGill University researchers may provide a solution to this limitation. By merging concepts from origami and kirigami, the practice of folding and cutting paper, researchers developed a class of cellular metamaterials that can flat-fold and lock into several positions that remain stiff across multiple directions.

“Their load-bearing capacity, flat-foldability, and reprogrammability can be harnessed for deployable structures including certain submarines, reconfigurable robots, and low-volume packaging,” said Damiano Pasini, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and lead researcher on the study. "Our metamaterials remain stiff in several directions, yet rigidly flat-foldable metamaterials, attributes unprecedented in the current literature.”

- This press release was originally published on the McGill University website