Origami-inspired materials could soften the blow for reusable spacecraft

Origami-inspired materials could soften the blow for reusable spacecraft
Inspired by the paper folding art of origami, a University of Washington team created a paper model of a metamaterial that uses 'folding creases' to soften impact forces for potential applications in spacecraft, cars and beyond. Credit: Kiyomi Taguchi/University of Washington

Space vehicles like SpaceX's Falcon 9 are designed to be reusable. But this means that, like Olympic gymnasts hoping for a gold medal, they have to stick their landings.

Landing is stressful on a rocket's legs because they must handle the force from the impact with the landing pad. One way to combat this is to build legs out of materials that absorb some of the force and soften the blow.

University of Washington researchers have developed a novel solution to help reduce impact forces—for potential applications in spacecraft, cars and beyond. Inspired by the paper folding art of origami, the team created a paper model of a metamaterial that uses "folding creases" to soften impact forces and instead promote forces that relax stresses in the . The team published its results May 24 in Science Advances.

"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. By the time the energy reaches you, it's no longer pushing. It's pulling," said corresponding author Jinkyu Yang, a UW associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics.

Yang and his team designed this new metamaterial to have the properties they wanted.

Inspired by the paper folding art of origami, a University of Washington team created a paper model of a metamaterial that uses 'folding creases' to soften impact forces for potential applications in spacecraft, cars and beyond. Credit: Kiyomi Taguchi/University of Washington

"Metamaterials are like Legos. You can make all types of structures by repeating a single type of building block, or unit cell as we call it," he said. "Depending on how you design your unit cell, you can create a material with unique mechanical properties that are unprecedented in nature."

The researchers turned to the art of origami to create this particular unit cell.

"Origami is great for realizing the unit cell," said co-author Yasuhiro Miyazawa, a UW aeronautics and astronautics doctoral student. "By changing where we introduce creases into flat materials, we can design that exhibit different degrees of stiffness when they fold and unfold. Here we've created a unit cell that softens the force it feels when someone pushes on it, and it accentuates the tension that follows as the cell returns to its normal shape."

  • Origami-inspired materials could soften the blow for reusable spacecraft
    Inspired by the paper folding art of origami, a University of Washington team created a paper model of a metamaterial that uses 'folding creases' to soften impact forces and instead promote forces that relax stresses in the chain. Credit: Kiyomi Taguchi/University of Washington
  • Origami-inspired materials could soften the blow for reusable spacecraft
    Inspired by the paper folding art of origami, a University of Washington team created a paper model of a metamaterial that uses "folding creases" to soften impact forces and instead promote forces that relax stresses in the chain. Shown here is Jinkyu Yang, a UW associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics. Credit: Kiyomi Taguchi/University of Washington

Just like origami, these unit cell prototypes are made out of paper. The researchers used a laser cutter to cut dotted lines into paper to designate where to fold. The team folded the paper along the lines to form a cylindrical structure, and then glued acrylic caps on either end to connect the cells into a long chain.

The researchers lined up 20 cells and connected one end to a device that pushed and set off a reaction throughout the chain. Using six GoPro cameras, the team tracked the initial compression wave and the following tension wave as the unit cells returned to normal.

The chain composed of the origami cells showed the counterintuitive wave motion: Even though the compressive pushing force from the device started the whole reaction, that force never made it to the other end of the chain. Instead, it was replaced by the tension force that started as the first unit cells returned to normal and propagated faster and faster down the chain. So the unit cells at the end of the chain only felt the tension pulling them back.

"Impact is a problem we encounter on a daily basis, and our system provides a completely new approach to reducing its effects. For example, we'd like to use it to help both people and cars fare better in car accidents," Yang said. "Right now it's made out of paper, but we plan to make it out of a composite material. Ideally, we could optimize the material for each specific application."


Explore further

Morphing origami takes a new shape, expanding use possibilities

More information: "Origami-based impact mitigation via rarefaction solitary wave creation" Science Advances (2019). advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/5/eaau2835
Journal information: Science Advances

Citation: Origami-inspired materials could soften the blow for reusable spacecraft (2019, May 24) retrieved 16 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-05-origami-inspired-materials-soften-reusable-spacecraft.html
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May 24, 2019
Sometimes you need to think outside the box. Why make the rocket legs heavier and more complicated? Use this technology under the landing pad and use computers to help control and stabilize the rocket landing.

May 25, 2019
They've been folding things up for thousands of years. They didn't need to pretend some inspiration from Asian paper folding. All folding is not origami.

May 25, 2019
They've been folding things up for thousands of years. They didn't need to pretend some inspiration from Asian paper folding. All folding is not origami.


Why does what they call it matter? We all pretty much know what origami is so using that term to explain it, makes it simpler for knot heads like me to understand.

May 25, 2019
They've been folding things up for thousands of years. They didn't need to pretend some inspiration from Asian paper folding. All folding is not origami.


Geez, you're pathetically easily triggered by the notion that none-white ingenuity might have contributed to science. Algebra must render you catatonic.

May 25, 2019
Geez, you're pathetically easily triggered by the notion that none-white ingenuity might have contributed to science. Algebra must render you catatonic.


I kind of thought the same thing but I realized without any proof at all it would be me showing prejudice. What if he is right in this particular case?
And perhaps he is non-white besides. To much we don't know to make a accusation of racial intent.

May 25, 2019
That looks like something that would be easily 3d printed.

May 25, 2019
What makes this attractive is the simple elegance that underlies origami. What makes it unattractive is volume of material required. This goes counter to the pragmatic engineering applications of origami, where you pack large structures into smaller volumes.

May 27, 2019
I kind of thought the same thing but I realized without any proof at all it would be me showing prejudice. What if he is right in this particular case?
And perhaps he is non-white besides. To much we don't know to make a accusation of racial intent.


Based on this individuals previous behavior such as misogynistic comments explicitly stating that science was a mans field, and their irrational hate for the ISS (I believe it's the word international that gets them all hot and bothered), it's safe to say they are a piece of scat, and have forfeit any kind of respect or benefit of the doubt you may rightfully extend to other living things.

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