Kirigami Balloons for Soft Robotics and Medical Devices

Researchers from Harvard  have designed materials that can control and mold a balloon into pre-programmed shapes. The system uses kirigami sheets, which are thin sheets of material with periodic cuts. These sheets are embedded into an inflatable device, and as the balloon expands, the cuts in the kirigami sheet guide the growth. The researchers can control the expansion globally to make large-scale shapes, as well as locally to generate small features. The team also developed an algorithm that finds the optimum design for the kirigami inflatable device that will mimic a target shape upon inflation. “This work provides a new platform for shape-morphing devices that could support the design of innovative medical tools, actuators, and reconfigurable structures,” says Harvard researcher Katia Bertoldi.