How to fold origami into a rocket ship’s tanks

Build a better fuel tank, and the space industry will beat a path to your door. At least that’s what Washington State University researchers are hoping after they harnessed the ancient art of origami to develop a foldable fuel bladder that stands up to cryogenic temperatures.

Graduate student Kjell Westra, engineering professor Jake Leachman and their colleagues at WSU’s Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research Laboratory, or HYPER Lab, describe their design in the journal Cryogenics. Their research addresses a longstanding challenge in rocket science: How can you store and pump super-chilled propellants like liquid hydrogen more efficiently?

“Folks have been trying to make bags for rocket fuel for a long time,” Leachman said today in a news release. “We currently don’t do large, long-duration trips because we can’t store fuel long enough in space.”

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.

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