Zhejiang University Scientists Create Material That Can Fold Itself Into Complex Shapes

By: | January 14th, 2016

Zhejiang University

Scientists at Zhejiang University have developed a new smart material capable of folding itself into complex shapes, almost like autonomous origami.

This polymer is remarkable because it represents the first time a material has been created that can fold itself into complex shapes without being melted down first.

All the new smart material takes is a short flash of heat for the rubbery polymer to fold itself into a bird or boat.

Tao Xie, a materials scientist at Zhejiang University in China and a co-author of the study, believes the material could find applications in reusable medical devices or aerospace structures because it can be programmed like a computer and shape-shift into specific structures on demand.

Qian Zhao / Tao Xie

Qian Zhao / Tao Xie

How is the polymer able to self-fold itself?

Essentially, the programming process is done by physically folding the polymer at various elevated temperatures, and from there the material can fold on its own with no external forces required.

Moving forward, Xie hopes to create a variation that can fold itself at lower temperatures.

Michael Cooney

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