Ryan Hayward (UMass Amherst), Thomas Hull (Western New England University), and Junhee Na (UMass Amherst)

Associate Professor of Mathematics
Western New England University
Springfield, MA

The team of Ryan Hayward, Thomas Hull, and Junhee Na are part of an NSF Emerging Fronteirs in Research and Innovation grant (NSF EFRI-1240441) devoted to exploring the development of meta-materials from tiny self-folding polymer sheets. We are interested in both form and function: Structures that we can control mechanically and that meet design and aesthetic criteria. Our goals are to develop materials for possible bio-mechanical applications as well as explore new realms of art and expression in this new medium–at the same time, if we can.

Micro Origami Octet Truss in Soft Polymer Gel
12 inches x 12 inches print of a 1 mm-wide object
confocal fluorescence microscopy image of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide-benzophenone-acrylic acid-rhodamine B methacrylate) and poly(para-methyl styrene-benzophenone)

This print shows a magnification of a 1 mm-wide self-folded object. It is an origami design of a 3D octahedron-tetrahedron truss, independently discovered by many origamists, like David Huffman, Toshikazu Kawasaki, and Ron Resch. The sample shown here is made of a soft polymer gel layer that swells when placed in water bonded to stiff plastic layers. As the soft layer swells, it builds up stresses that cause the sheet to bend to defined angles at locations specified by patterning the stiff layers. This allows the sheet to fold itself simply by placing it in water. Here, the sheet is shown imaged by confocal microscopy, a technique that allows the full 3D structure to be reconstructed from a series of 2D fluorescence images.