Metamaterials — materials whose function is determined by structure, not composition — have been designed to bend light and sound, transform from soft to stiff, and even dampen seismic waves from earthquakes. But each of these functions requires a unique mechanical structure, making these materials great for specific tasks, but difficult to implement broadly.
But what if a material could contain within its structure, multiple functions and easily and autonomously switch between them?
Enter a team of Harvard researchers who, inspired by snapology origami, collaborated with designers and mathematicians to create a “blueprint or DNA” for designing reconfigurable material structures. From Harvard.edu:
Once a specific design was selected, the team constructed working prototypes of each 3D metamaterial both using laser-cut cardboard and double-sided tape, and multimaterial 3D printing. Like origami, the resulting structure can be folded along their edges to change shape…
“This framework is like a toolkit to build reconfigurable materials,” said [Chuck] Hoberman. “These building blocks and design space are incredibly rich and we’ve only begun to explore all the things you can build with them.”
Their work can be applied to both nanoscale solutions and large-scale options in engineering of all kinds — mechanical, structural, aerospace, biomedical, solar, wind, robotic, etc — architecture, materials science, and many more.Next: This mini origami robot self-folds, performs tasks, & can be dissolved, 3D-printed Metamaterial Mechanisms, and Self-Folding Crawler: A Transformer-style Origami Robot.