Origami-inspired materials could soften the …

Origami-inspired materials could soften the blow for reusable spacecraft

Space vehicles like SpaceX’s Falcon 9 are designed to be reusable. But this means that, like Olympic gymnasts hoping for a gold medal, they have to stick their landings.

Landing is stressful on a rocket’s legs because they must handle the force from the impact with the landing pad. One way to combat this is to build legs out of materials that absorb some of the force and soften the blow.

University of Washington researchers have developed a novel solution to help reduce impact forces – for potential applications in spacecraft, cars and beyond. Inspired by the paper folding art of origami, the team created a paper model of a metamaterial that uses “folding creases” to soften impact forces and instead promote forces that relax stresses in the chain. The team published its results May 24 in Science Advances.

“If you were wearing a football helmet made of this material and something hit the helmet, you’d never feel that hit on your head. By the time the energy reaches you, it’s no longer pushing. It’s pulling,” said corresponding author Jinkyu Yang, a UW associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics.

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