ITHACA, N.Y. Embracing the pleats, creases and tucks of the Japanese art of decorative paper folding, Cornell University researchers are uncovering how origami principles could lead to exotic materials, soft robots and even tiny transformers.
Publishing online in the journal Science Aug. 8, an interdisciplinary team led by Cornell's Itai Cohen, associate professor of physics, and graduate student Jesse Silverberg have 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.
Video, photos, study: https://cornell.box.com/origami
The Miura-ori, which consists of repeatedly folded parallelograms, can change the stiffness of a sheet of paper and, by extension, any material from which it's folded based only on the crease pattern. Moreover, by altering the pattern and introducing defects, they showed how to tune its stiffness, creating a material in which physical properties can be programmed.
Silverberg, an origami enthusiast since second grade, got the idea for studying the Miura-ori during a physics meeting, when co-author Chris Santangelo of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, noticed its unusual properties. Most known materials bulge when squeezed, like a sponge. But the Miura-ori contracts when squeezed. "This is desirable for engineering all sorts of devices you wouldn't be able to make otherwise," Silverberg said.
The team, which also includes Arthur Evans and Ryan Hayward of UMass Amherst; and Thomas Hull of Western New England University, used desktop models many hand-folded by Silverberg and computational analysis by Evans to identify principles that could be applied to the design of metamaterials.
Metamaterials are generated by a repeating pattern of smaller subunits to engineer exotic, non-natural properties on larger scales. The Miu
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