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Origami is a part of all scholastic arts and craft curriculum. The art that is all about the arrangement of pieces of paper in different shapes to model decorative figures with various folding techniques is really an interesting one. But who would have thought that it might motivate research in space technology that could make it possible to reuse spacecrafts and rockets one day?
Yes! Researchers from the University of Washington in the U.S have developed a material that can withstand high impact collisions, something which is suitable to be used to build reusable spacecrafts. The Japanese art paper-folding has inspired the inception of a metamaterial that cushions impact force with the help of folding creases and gives rise to forces to nullify the chain stress.
The aerodynamics and forces acting on a rocket upon its landing lead to a lot of wear and tear. Landing is typically stressful for reusable rockets as they are to handle the impact force with the launching pad. To reduce its effects, the researchers’ team have created a paper model of the metamaterial to be used to build the legs to absorb some of the force and tone down the blow.
According to the research published in the journal of Science Advances, the metamaterials are like Legos that are a single type of building blocks and can be made into all types of structures. The researchers have designed the blocks or, unit cells in a way that flat paper is creased along the folds in origami. By changing the placement of these creases, materials with varying degrees of stiffness can be designed.
A prototype cell unit has already been created by the researchers that contain the force thrust upon it by accentuating the tension elastically as the cell returns to its normal shape. These cells have been made out of paper and feature laser-cut dotted lines to show where they are to be folded. The team folded the paper into a cylinder. Attaching acrylic caps on either end, the team connected several such cells together to form a long chain.
The new approach to absorb collision shocks can go a long way to reduce the damage and casualties in car accidents as a composite version of the material (which is now paper) can be applied in automobiles. The team plans to optimize the material for each customised use.