origami expert advises engineers how to build shrinking nasa solar array
Last Updated : GMT 13:26:15
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Last Updated : GMT 13:26:15
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Origami expert advises engineers how to build shrinking NASA solar array

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Almaghrib Today, almaghrib today Origami expert advises engineers how to build shrinking NASA solar array

Tehran - FNA

A team of mechanical engineers has sought the expertise of an expert in origami mathematics to design a low-cost, compact array that will spring into its true and larger form when released in space. Space exploration is expensive business, and inevitably must become more and more cost-effective to thrive. We've already seen how cubesats can potentially democratise space studies, now a team at Brigham Young University (BYU) thinks it has developed an equivalent for solar arrays that can power space stations in the future. "It's expensive and difficult to get things into space; you're very constrained in space," said research leader and professor at BYU Larry Howell. "With origami you can make it compact for launch and then as you get into space it can deploy and be large." The University had already been working closely with Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, with one graduate student (and a member on the team) Shannon Zirbel previously earning a fellowship in the lab to apply her knowledge of compliant mechanics (jointless, elastic structures) to the building of robotic spacecraft. Speaking in the embedded video, Zirbel explaind the importance of looking to other disciplines to solve unanswered questions. "You can find inspiration for designs from anything, if you're open to inspiration from any resources than your creativity is not limited," she said. This time around, they found that inspiration in the ancient Japanese art of origami, as administered by Robert Lang, one of the few experts of the craft that carries out research into computational origami and origami mathematics. On his site, Lang points out how origami has significantly contributed to the world of technology, from the eyeglass telescope to airbag folding (you can see him explaining these creations and more in this Ted talk). Now it has been the inspiration for a 25m-diameter, 1cm-thick silicon solar array that folds down to a compact 2.7m-wide version and has the potential to generate 250kw of power -- currently, according to BYU, it takes around three of the International Space Station's arrays to generate that kind of power. "Practical modifications are presented for the creation of physical models and two options are proposed: allowing the panels to fold along their diagonals or applying a membrane backing with specified widths at fold-lines," notes the team in the November issue of the Journal of Mechanical Design where its preliminary work has been published. Currently, they only have a prototype that unfolds to around 1.25m, but the team will spend the next few years perfecting the technique. Lang and Howell both believe origami-inspired mechanics has the potential to revolutionsie other areas. "It's hard to predict what the greatest outcome of this collaboration will be, but it would be a great success if a solar array based on our concept flew on a Nasa mission," Lang said. "Origami could also be used for antennas, solar sails and even expandable nets used to catch asteroids." Howell believes the technique will have applications here on Earth as well -- in medicine (with implants or stents slotted into the body through a small cut) or pop-up phones and even homes that spring open when needed. "The results are general and apply to a range of applications," the team writes in the journal, where no fewer than nine other origami-centric papers have been published just in the November issue, demonstrating the growing interest in this ancient art's potential.

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origami expert advises engineers how to build shrinking nasa solar array origami expert advises engineers how to build shrinking nasa solar array

 



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