NASA Developing Origami-like Solar Power Arrays


From paper cranes to solar arrays, the applications of origami grow more vast with each new idea.

Origami, the Japanese art of folding paper, has become increasingly popular in the past few weeks within the scientific community. First, the Cambridge-MIT Institute developed a self-assembling robot that mimicked the practice in its method of construction. Now, NASA may have found a way to apply origami in its designs for spacecraft parts and other celestial devices.

Brian Trease, a mechanical engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has partnered with researchers at Brigham Young University in an attempt to create components that can be built easier with the help of folding. His research partner is Shannon Zirbel- a doctoral student at BYU who has spent two summers at JPL working with him on this front. “This is a unique crossover of art and culture and technology,” Trease said when discussing the project.

Last year in conjunction with origami expert Robert Lang and BYU professor Larry Howell, Trease and Zirbel were able to develop a solar array that, when unfolded, is 82 feet in diameter. When folded, the structure becomes 8.9 feet- a little over 10% of its original size. Trease hopes that foldable solar array concept could help enhance CubeSats (satellites small in both mass and size that are popular with schools and governments due to their relative affordability), as well as the antennas found on satellites.

According to Trease, origami has only recently been the center of a large amount of scientific study- with such trends originating within the last 40 years. As seen in recent trends, there is growing interest in merging origami and its concepts with the designs of modern technologies. “You think of it as ancient art, but people are still inventing new things, enabled by mathematical tools,” Trease said.

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Source: Red Orbit

About the author