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Graphene Origami

The Paul McEuen lab collaborated with the labs of David Muller, Applied and Engineering Physics, and Itai Cohen, Physics, to create mobile nanomachines, using the Japanese arts of kirigami and origami.

The paper arts of origami and kirigami (‘ori’ = fold, ‘kiri’ = cut) provide a powerful framework to design responsive and tunable new materials. For example, many biological tissues develop folds and cuts reminiscent of origami and kirigami that endow them with distinct and useful mechanical properties. The seemingly limitless number of forms that can be created speaks to the potential of exploiting such design principles for materials beyond paper.

This project extends these design ideas to the microscale through the use of graphene, an atomically thin two-dimensional material, as the nanoscale paper foundation. The focus is on creating mechanical ‘metamaterials’—materials whose properties reflect the patterns of folds and cuts rather than the properties of the underlying paper. This paper-arts-inspired strategy has the potential to fundamentally transform the way materials are designed for the micro-world and could find applications in areas ranging from micro-robotics to mechanical sensors and actuators that mimic biologically ‘active’ tissues.


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