Harvard/MIT Eggheads Develop Self-Folding Paper, Cheat at Origami

Paul Lilly

Origami is one of those things where it seems you either have a knack for it or you don't. If you don't, all the practice in the world won't help turn your crumpled creations into works of art, but maybe one day your PC will be able to lend a helping hand.

If so, you can thank Robert Wood of Harvard University and Daniella Rus and Eric Demaine at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The trio have developed a material that's able to fold on its own. It's a square sheet of glass fiber 4cm wide and patterned with 32 triangular tiles, the seams of which are made from flexible silicon rubber and a "shape memory" alloy foil, New Scientist reports .

To make it all work, each foil was folded in two and held in a vice and then heated to 420C for 30 minutes. This allowed the foil to retain a memory of its fold when opened back up and allowed to cool.

After this was done, the research team fired up origami simulator software to calculate the sequence of folds required to put together two basic objects, one being a paper airplane and the other a boat. A current was then sent through the foils heating them above their "transition" temperature of 70C and forcing them to fold.

Check out the short 49-sec video clip here .

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