University of Washington researchers have developed a novel solution to help reduce impact forces — for potential applications in spacecraft, cars and beyond. And the new approach was inspired by origami.

This breakthrough development could one day let us reuse spacecraft, build epic superhero suits, or even harvest energy for electronics. Inspired by the paper folding art of origami, the team created a paper model of a metamaterial (an artificial substance engineered to exhibit properties that we haven’t actually found in nature) that uses “folding creases” to soften impact forces and instead promote forces that relax stresses in the chain.

Metamaterials are designed with repeating structures allowing them to direct and control the flow of electromagnetic or physical waves through them. They have incredible properties––like light-bending abilities or superconductivity––that come from their structure, not their substance.

And so engineering teams, like this one at the University of Washington, can make reality-bending properties emerge from something as simple as acrylic and paper and this design in particular draws from the mathematical concepts of origami.

These aeronautical engineers created a modular structure using shapes they call TCOs, Triangulated Cylindrical Origami. Unlike other metamaterials, which typically tend to harden under compression, this structure exhibits “strain-softening behavior.” This essentially means that the engineers found a way to turn a compression wave into a tension wave.

So how will this new approach impact the future of spacecrafts, cars, and beyond? Find out in this Elements.

#spacecrafts #metamaterials #origami #superconductivity #science #seeker #elements

‘Origami' Metamaterial Softens Impact Forces

"Landing is stressful on a rocket’s legs because they must handle the force from the impact with the landing pad. One way to combat this is to build legs out of materials that absorb some of the force and soften the blow. The paper model of the new metamaterial promotes forces that relax stresses in the chain..."

Cool Jobs: The art of paper folding is inspiring science

"Origami has even inspired scientists to tackle a vast variety of projects, from creating shape-shifting pasta to improving noise barriers for roads. These and other origami-inspired scientific innovations are powerful because they pack a triple punch. They combine the power of science, art and math."

"So what's the next frontier in metamaterials? It may be the super-small, according to Itai Cohen of Cornell University. Cohen favors origami metamaterials, which are formed out of thin sheets that can fold and unfold in complex patterns."

Advertisement Free Shipping on The North Face, UGG, Patagonia, Merrell, Five Fingers, and Garmin!

More videos