New York: Inspired by the Japanese art of origami, researchers have found a way to make reversibly self-folding 3D structures.
The team from University of Massachusetts, Amherst, used ultraviolet photolithographic patterning of photo-crosslinkable polymers for this.
"We have designed and implemented a simple approach that consists of sandwiching a thin layer of a temperature-responsive hydrogel with two patterned films of a rigid plastic," said polymer scientist Ryan Hayward.
The presence of gaps in the plastic layers allows for folding by a controlled amount in a specified direction, enabling the formation of fairly complex origami structures, he added.
Instead of following the step-by-step actuation of folds in a controlled sequence characteristic of traditional origami, the new method relies on "collapse" designs in which, all folds are accomplished more or less simultaneously.
Collapse-type origami designs have not been thoroughly explored in the past because of the difficulty of actuating tens or hundreds of folds with human hands.
"Our technique removes this restriction and we expect that with the actuation scalability provided by our technique, vastly more complex collapsible structures may now be readily explored," the authors said.
In biomedicine or bioengineering, this new approach may help in developing advanced self-deploying implantable medical devices or in guiding the growth of cells into complex tissues and organs.
The study appeared in the journal Advanced Materials.