Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Research: 'Buckliball' opens new avenue in design of foldable engineering structures

Date:
March 26, 2012
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary:
Inspired by a toy, the 'buckliball' -- a collapsible structure fabricated from a single piece of material -- represents a new class of 3-D, origami-like structures.

Inspired by a toy, the ‘buckliball’ — a collapsible structure fabricated from a single piece of material — represents a new class of 3-D, origami-like structures.
Credit: Image courtesy of Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Motivated by the desire to determine the simplest 3-D structure that could take advantage of mechanical instability to collapse reversibly, a group of engineers at MIT and Harvard University were stymied -- until one of them happened across a collapsible, spherical toy that resembled the structures they'd been exploring, but with a complex layout of 26 solid moving elements and 48 rotating hinges.

The toy inspired the engineers to create the "buckliball," a hollow, spherical object made of soft rubber containing no moving parts, but fashioned with 24 carefully spaced dimples. When the air is sucked out of a buckliball with a syringe, the thin ligaments forming columns between lateral dimples collapse. This is the engineering equivalent of applying equal load on all beams in a structure simultaneously to induce buckling, a phenomenon first studied by mathematician Leonhard Euler in 1757.

When the buckliball's thin ligaments buckle, the thicker ligaments forming rows between dimples undergo a series of movements the researchers refer to as a "cooperative buckling cascade." Some of the thick ligaments rotate clockwise, others counterclockwise -- but all move simultaneously and harmoniously, turning the original circular dimples into vertical and horizontal ellipses in alternating patterns before closing them entirely. As a result, the buckliball morphs into a rhombicuboctahedron about half the size (46 percent) of the original sphere.

The researchers named their new structure for its use of buckling and its resemblance to buckyballs, spherical all-carbon molecules whose name was inspired by the geodesic domes created by architect-inventor Buckminster Fuller. The buckliball is the first morphable structure to incorporate buckling as a desirable engineering design element. The buckling process induces folding in portions of the sphere -- similar to the way paper folds in origami -- so the researchers place their buckliball in a larger framework of buckling-induced origami they call "buckligami."

Because their collapse is fully reversible and can be achieved without moving parts, morphable structures such as the buckliball have the potential for widespread applications, from the micro- to macroscale. They could be used to create large buildings with collapsible roofs or walls, tiny drug-delivery capsules or soft movable joints requiring no mechanical pieces. They also have the potential to transform Transformers and other kinds of toys. (The toy that provided the researchers' epiphany is the Hoberman Twist-O.)

The researchers -- Jongmin Shim MS '05, PhD '10, a postdoc at Harvard; Claude Perdigo, a visiting graduate student at MIT; Elizabeth Chen, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan who will join Harvard as a postdoc in the fall; Katia Bertoldi, an assistant professor in applied mechanics at Harvard; and Pedro Reis, the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering at MIT -- wrote a paper about this work that appears this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"In civil engineering, buckling is commonly associated with failure that must be avoided. For example, one typically wants to calculate the buckling criterion for columns and apply an additional safety factor, to ensure that a building stands," Reis says. "We are trying to change this paradigm by turning failure into functionality in soft mechanical structures. For us, the buckliball is the first such object, but there will be many others." For instance, a robotic arm could be built from a single piece of material using a precisely engineered pattern of dimples at the intended hinging points that, when activated by a pressure signal, would bend.

"The buckliball not only opens avenues for the design of foldable structures over a wide range of length scales, but may also be used as a building block for creating new materials with unusual properties, capable of dramatic contraction in all directions," Bertoldi says.

Reis's research uses precision tabletop-scale lab tests and mathematical analysis to determine the basic physics underlying the mechanical behavior of materials. Bertoldi's research group uses tools from continuum and computational mechanics to unravel the mechanics of soft structures. The two teams collaborated on the buckliball: Reis' team performed the lab experiments with the help of digital fabrication techniques (such as 3-D printing) to create objects with precise geometry, and Bertoldi's group used computation to further analyze the detailed mechanics of the process.

Chen, who was visiting Harvard at the time, determined that only five spherical geometric structures have the potential for reversible buckling-induced collapse. (The specific example of Fuller's 12-hole rhombicuboctahedron that collapses into a cuboctahedron is one of these five.) Design parameters for buckliballs include dimple size, the thickness of the thin shell inside the dimple and the stiffness of the material used to fabricate the buckliball.

Nature, it appears, has already figured this out. Viruses inject their nucleic acids into a host through a reversible structural transformation in which 60 holes open or close based on changes in the acidity of the cell's environment, a different mechanism that achieves a similar reversible collapse at the nanoscale.

"What's exciting about this work is that it uses instabilities to basically amplify small or moderate pressures into dramatic motion," says Carmel Majidi, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University whose research in soft robotics focuses on stretchable skin-like materials containing sensors. "One limitation of working with soft-material robotics is that they're soft; they can't produce the high pressures you get with heavy machines, so you're left with machines that provide only fairly moderate pressures. This makes it difficult to achieve dramatic deformations. If you use a robotic skin as an assistive medical device on a human, it can monitor motion. But with advancements like the buckliball, the skin may even be able to actively change its shape and directly help with motor tasks."

The work was funded through a National Science Foundation grant to the Harvard Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and by funds from Harvard University and MIT.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The original article was written by Denise Brehm, Civil and Environmental Engineering. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jongmin Shim, Claude Perdigou, Elizabeth R. Chen, Katia Bertoldi, and Pedro M. Reis. Buckling-induced encapsulation of structured elastic shells under pressure. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 26, 2012 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1115674109

Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Research: 'Buckliball' opens new avenue in design of foldable engineering structures." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120326160829.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2012, March 26). Research: 'Buckliball' opens new avenue in design of foldable engineering structures. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120326160829.htm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Research: 'Buckliball' opens new avenue in design of foldable engineering structures." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120326160829.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 20, 2014) Forget rolling on rubber, could car drivers soon be traveling on tires made from dandelions? Teams of scientists are racing to breed a type of the yellow flower whose taproot has a milky fluid with tire-grade rubber particles in it. As Joanna Partridge reports, global tire makers are investing millions in research into a new tire source. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) A solar cell that resembles a flower is offering a new take on green energy in Japan, where one scientist is searching for renewables that look good. Duration: 01:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins