first_imgStay on target Hands up if, like me, you can’t properly fold a roadmap.The principle seems easy: Follow the creased lines for a glove-compartment-ready stowaway.The practice, however, is difficult: Various steps must be performed in the correct order, or you end up with a crumpled mess.But roadmaps, as Leiden University pointed out, are “peanuts” compared to components space satellites fold in and out.A team of Dutch physicists—led by Martin van Hecke (Leiden University) and Corentin Coulais (University of Amsterdam)—designed a structure that folds itself up in several steps when slight pressure is exerted on the sides.“Many multistage folding processes can be found in nature,” Coulais said, citing proteins that fold themselves.“In technology, however, such steps do not occur autonomously and several motors are required,” he explained. “We wanted to see if you could make artificial materials that have an inbuilt, automatic, multistage folding process so that folding motors are no longer required.”Using a 4-inch-wide rubber construction made of rotating blocks with flexible connectors of different thicknesses, the researchers were able to force the network into a more compact structure with a bit of pressure.The harder they pushed, the tighter the construction became.The so-called “metamaterial” folds itself in a record three steps; it also boasts an inbuilt self-correction mechanism which ensures the blocks settle in the right position.“Automatic folding and self-correction are important in the space industry, for example, because a lot can go wrong, and errors cannot be tolerated,” van Hecke said in a statement. “Equally, if a medical probe gets stuck while folding up, it will be harder to remove from the body.”The simple fact of their discovery is a step forward, according to the team, which conceives of various applications beyond the space and medical fields—including soft robots and stretchable electronics.“We are trying to simulate that automatic folding process and to understand it by using far simpler structures,” van Hecke continued. “Only once we understand it at a fundamental level will it be possible to design complex structures with a practical application.”Futuristic e-skin detects wind speed, creeping ants. Jellyfish robot to monitor delicate ocean creatures. Read all about the latest science news here. Watch: Dolphin Leaps Feet Away From Unsuspecting SurferNASA Says 2 Asteroids Will Safely Fly By Earth This Weekend center_img Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.last_img

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