Material Science

Scientists go to origami and Lego to assemble a superior spacecraft

Researchers are going to the Japanese art of origami to configuration impact-resistant material that may make spacecraft reusable, helmets more effective and cars more secure.

Specialists at the University of Washington, US, have used hundreds of years old paper-folding strategies to make a prototype material that lessens the compression stress of effects.

This “metamaterial” – that is, a material engineered to have a property not found in nature – could be used to soften the force delivered to the legs of a spacecraft on landing. This would expel one impediment to reusable rockets.

Lead scientist Jinkyu Yang depicts metamaterials as being “like Lego”.

“You can make all types of structures by repeating a single type of building block, or unit cell as we call it,” he says.

The group designed the unit cell for their new material prototype by utilizing origami principles, and afterward fabricated it with three-ply drawing paper.

Every cell is laser-cut and folded so that after it is compressed by an effect, it rapidly bounces over into shape.

The scientists then connected 20 cells together in a line and utilized a gadget to strike a blow toward one end of the chain.

Using six GoPro cameras, Yang and associates tracked the compression wave brought about by the effect travelling through the chain. They likewise tracked as the cells bounced back into shape, causing an opposing wave of tension – known as a rarefaction wave – along the chain.

Furthermore, here is the place the payoff is: the rarefaction wave moved more rapidly than the pressure wave and surpassed it, so that by the most distant end of the chain there was no effect force, simply tension pulling far from the last cell.

“If you were wearing a football helmet made of this material and something hit the helmet, you’d never feel that hit on your head,” Yang says. “By the time the energy reaches you, it’s no longer pushing. It’s pulling.”

The analysts state that it had been mathematically anticipated that a rarefaction wave would overwhelm a compression wave in a line of cells, however theirs is the first practical demonstration of the phenomenon.

“Impact is a problem we encounter on a daily basis, and our system provides a completely new approach to reducing its effects,” Yang clarifies.

“For example, we’d like to use it to help both people and cars fare better in car accidents.”

While the prototype is made of paper, the architecture could be reproduced in a range of materials appropriate to each application.

“We believe that this architecture of volumetric origami cells can be used as a versatile building block for a wide range of applications such as impact/shock mitigation, vibration filtering, and energy harvesting,” the researchers conclude.