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Origami Science: Ancient Art To Cutting Edge Science

Need a way to make something large and expansive, small and compact for its journey to its final destination? Scientists are looking to origami to do just that.

Tiny origami crane on top of coin

Photo: quarksteilchen (flickr)

Space scientists, medical researchers, and other industry specialists are finding origami very helpful in their research on design and function.

Paper folding techniques used in origami have been adopted by researchers in fields as diverse as medicine, space science, and consumer electronics.

Waterbomb Base

For example, in the early 2000s researchers at the University of Oxford incorporated an origami pattern called the “waterbomb base” into a heart stent design. This allowed the device to fold into a very small package for its trip through the small blood vessels leading to the weakened artery where it could then be expanded to provide support and hold the artery open.

Scientists working in the automobile industry have also used origami folding patterns in making computer simulated airbags.

A Pocket Telescope?

Similarly, space scientists have recently used origami techniques to fold a large lens of a telescope up into a tiny package that fits nicely in a spaceship, and then can be unfolded again out in space.

Many of these designs have used the ancient art of origami and its complex paper folding methods in a similar way: to make something that needs to be large and expansive at its destination, small and compact for its journey there.

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