a research team at the university of washington has developed a highly flexible metamaterial which mimics origami to reduce impact forces. demonstrated using a paper model, researchers say it could be adapted to different purposes including helmets, cars, and other devices that absorb high impacts.


the idea is based on using ‘folding creases’ to lessen impact forces by promoting forces that relax stresses in the chain of metamaterials. researchers created the paper model by cutting dotted lines into paper using a laser cutter. next, they folded the paper along these lines to make a cylindrical structure. at either end of the structure, the scientists glued acrylic caps to connect each cylinder into a chain.

new material that mimics origami could create super protective helmets in the future

© kiyomi taguchi/university of washington



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,’ corresponding author jinkyu yang, a university of washington associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics, said in a statement.


other applications include space travel where researchers say the metamaterial could be used to soften impact forces for landing rockets and other spacecrafts. researchers plan to further test the theory to prove it, according to the statement. their next step is to try and replicate the paper model with more durable materials.

a paper based on the research was published may 24 in the journal science advances. the study was led by hiromi yasuda, a postdoctoral student at the university of pennsylvania who completed this work while pursuing a doctorate at the university of washington.

new material that mimics origami could create super protective helmets in the future

(a) folding motion of the tco is shown in sequence. (b) the flat sheet with crease patterns (upper left) is composed of mountain crease lines (red), valley crease lines (blue), and the adhesive area (shaded area). the photograph shows corresponding laser-cut paper sheets (lower right). (c) actual prototype of the origami-based metamaterial and its unit cell (lower right inset). (d) the origami-based metamaterial generates the rarefaction solitary wave despite the application of compressive impact. the system is composed of the tco unit cells (lower right). to connect the neighboring unit cells, we use the interfacial polygonal cross-section with markers at vertices (lower left). photo credit: h.y. and y.m., university of washington.