WASHINGTON: Imagine a house that could fit in a backpack or a wall that could become a window at the flick of a switch. Harvard researchers say it might be possible!
Scientists from the best university in the United States have designed a new type of collapsible material that is versatile, adjustable and self-acting.
The material can change in size, volume and shape and can fold flat to support the weight of an elephant without breaking, and come back to prepare for the next task, the scientists said.
“We have designed a thin-walled three-dimensional structure that can be used to create foldable and reprogrammable objects of arbitrary architecture, whose shape, volume and stiffness can be drastically altered and continuously adjusted and controlled,” said Johannes TB Overvelde of Harvard University.
The structure is inspired by an origami technique called snapology, and is composed of extruded cubes with 24 faces and 36 edges. Like origami, the cube can be folded along the edges to change shape.
Researchers have shown, both theoretically and experimentally, that the cube can be deformed into many different shapes by bending certain edges, which act as hinges. They incorporated pneumatic actuators into the structure, which can be programmed to deform specific hinges, changing the shape and size of the cube and eliminating the need for external inputs.
The researchers linked 64 of these individual cells to create a 4x4x4 cube that can grow and shrink, change its shape globally, change the orientation of its microstructure, and fold completely flat.
As the structure changes shape, so does the stiffness, which means you can make a very flexible or very stiff material using the same design. These changes in material properties add a fourth dimension to the material.
“Not only do we understand how material deforms, but we also have an implementation approach that leverages this understanding. We know exactly what we need to do to get the shape we want,” said Katia Bertoldi of Harvard University.
The material can be incorporated with any type of actuator, including thermal, dielectric, or even water, the researchers said.
“The opportunities to move all control systems aboard combined with new actuation systems already in development for origami-like structures really open the design space for these easily deployable transformable structures,” said James Weaver of the University. by Harvard.
“This structural system has fascinating implications for dynamic architecture, including portable shelters, adaptive building facades and retractable roofs,” added Chuck Hoberman of Harvard University.
The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.