Applied Physics

Optical Origami

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Science  11 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6082, pp. 651
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6082.651-b

The Japanese art of origami, in which paper is meticulously folded into a wide range of intricate three-dimensional shapes, also lends itself to myriad applications in engineering; examples include the possibility of efficient flat-pack transportation of “pop-up” accommodation buildings in disaster-struck areas, and the preparation of expandable stents that allow for minimally invasive keyhole surgery. The folding itself can be induced by a number of stimuli depending on the materials involved, with electrical, magnetic, chemical, or mechanical stimuli having been demonstrated. Ryu et al. now show that light can also be used to fold photoresponsive polymers into intricate shapes. The light absorbed in the polymer film induces a photochemical reaction that relaxes the stress. By using a pattern of photomasks, they could localise the regions of stress relaxation to form hinges that then allowed the film to fold into a prescribed shape. The authors discuss the flexibility of blending in other molecules into the polymer that would provide the structure with advanced functionality.

Appl. Phys. Lett. 100, 161908 (2012).

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