Origami inspires high-tech shock absorbers

Inspired by the paper folding art of origami, a University of Washington team — including Jinkyu Yang, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics — created a paper model of a metamaterial that uses folding creases to soften the force of an impact. (UW Photo / Kiyomi Taguchi)

Can origami protect football players and reusable rockets? Researchers have shown how the ancient art of paper-folding can soften the shock of an impact, whether it’s cracking into a helmet or touching down on a landing pad.

The technique, described today in an open-access paper published by Science Advances, takes advantage of the stress-relaxing effect of folding creases in paper and other materials.

“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,” senior author Jinkyu Yang, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the University of Washington, said in a news release.

That’s not to say that future football helmets will be made of paper. But the engineering principles that Yang and his colleagues tested with paper models could well be translated into new types of shock-absorbing structures for rocket landing legs, automotive vehicles and other applications.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

Leave a Reply