Build a Bridge, a House…… or a Spacecraft with This Super Strong Origami

Researchers have discovered a new type of origami that is super lightweight but also strong enough to support a house, bridge or even a spacecraft.

Developed by University of Illinois PHd researcher Evgueni Filipov, Georgia Tech Professor Glaucio Paulino, as well as Univerity of Tokyo Porfessor (and origami expert) Tomohiro Tachi, the technique works by folding a strip of material into a zig zag configuration called a ‘zipper tube.’ Each zipper tube on its own is very flexible, but when attached to another tube, the resulting structure is incredibly strong. These tubes can then be folded completely flat, making storage, transport and quick deployment simple and effective.

This combination of super strength, super compactness and mobility make this technique ideal for applications ranging from disaster zones to large festivals and even to solar arrays in outer space.

A further advantage is that like much like real origami, engineers can manipulate the characterists of the zippers as they wish. “The structure (is) able to change what it does, change its characteristics, and change its property,” say s Filipov. “So you can make them more flexible or stiffer at times by doing some manipulations.”

So far, the team’s origami experiment have focused on paper, but they are excited about testing the technique with other materials such as metals or plastics.

You can discover more about their work at the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

And you can watch these zippered tubes in action here.