Origami, the ancient art of paper folding, may soon provide a foundation for antennas that can reconfigure themselves to operate at different frequencies, microfluidic devices whose properties can change in operation – and even heating and air-conditioning ductwork that adjusts to demand.
The applications could result from reconfigurable and reprogrammable origami tubes developed by researchers at three institutions, including the Georgia Institute of Technology. By changing the ways in which the paper is folded, the same tube can have six or more different cross sections. Though the models are now reconfigured by hand, magnetic or electrical actuators could make the changes when the tubes are used in real-world applications.
The tubes can be folded flat for shipping, and made in a range of sizes from the nanoscale up to architectural scale. By developing the mathematical theory behind the folding, the researchers can design tubes with the exact properties needed for electrical engineers, civil engineers or other users. The tubes employ the Miura-ori pattern, one of many unique patterns used in origami.
“We have developed a new type of origami tube that is reconfigurable to many different cross sections,” said Glaucio Paulino, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “We have also developed a mathematical theory that goes along with it that allows us to design the tubes and predict how they can be reconfigured or reprogrammed.