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Origami Unfolds a New World of Shape-Shifting Electronics

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Stavros Georgakopoulos holds an origami-infused foldable antenna prototype.

A joint research team at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Florida International University are designing origami-influenced antennas.

Credit: Florida International University

The art of origami is transforming the field of electrical engineering and electronics design, as scientists draw on concepts that could enable new shape-shifting electronics. The technology could result in devices such as smartphones that can fold into a pocket or tablets that simply roll up.

A joint research team at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Florida International University (FIU) is working on origami-influenced antennas, using a $2-million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation's Origami Design for Integration of Self-assembling Systems for Engineering Innovation. Beyond antenna design, the researchers also are exploring DNA folding and mechanical structure design.

FIU professor Stavros Georgakopoulos says art inspires the imagination to develop new design concepts. For example, with antennas, origami concepts help to miniaturize the antenna during launch, and help it grow much larger when it reaches outer space, according to Georgakopoulos.

The team has created paper prototypes and deposited conductive materials onto the paper using special ink-jet techniques. Other flexible materials, such as plastics and flexible dielectrics, also could work for this type of development.

To test the real-world electromagnetic properties of antenna prototypes, Georgakopoulos uses simulation software.

The engineers also are collaborating with origami masters, who demonstrate various folded structures that could serve as prototypes.

From CNet
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