A multi-university research team led by North Carolina State University will be developing methods to create two-dimensional (2-D) materials capable of folding themselves into three-dimensional (3-D) objects when exposed to light. The effort, which is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), is inspired by origami and has a broad range of potential applications.

Specifically, the researchers plan to use experiments and computational models to evaluate the folding process in order to develop new multi-functional 3-D structures that can form rapidly while retaining precise control over their shape.

Because the patterns will be on 2-D materials, the process should be compatible with high-throughput patterning techniques, such as roll-to-roll patterning used in electronics manufacturing.

Potential applications include the development of unfoldable air foils that could be used for airdrops of humanitarian supplies with greater precision; hands-free assembly of electronics in a “clean” environment; or various packaging and manufacturing processes.

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