Thursday, November 28, 2013

Origami to solve astronomical space problem - Video

Brigham Young University (BYU) engineers have teamed up with a world-renowned origami expert to solve one of space exploration's greatest (and most ironic) problems: lack of space.

Working with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a team of mechanical engineering students and faculty have designed a solar array that can be tightly compacted for launch and then deployed in space to generate power for space stations or satellites.

Applying origami principles on rigid silicon solar panels – a material considerably thicker than the paper used for the traditional Japanese art – the BYU-conceived solar array would unfold to nearly 10 times its stored size.

"It's expensive and difficult to get things into space; you're very constrained in space," said BYU professor and research team leader Larry Howell.

"With origami you can make it compact for launch and then as you get into space it can deploy and be large."

Mechanical engineering professor Larry Howell and a team of researchers from BYU and NASA are using origami to create space equipment.

The current project, detailed in the November issue of the Journal of Mechanical Design, is propelled by collaboration between BYU, NASA and origami expert Robert Lang.

Howell reached out to Lang as part of landing a $2 million National Science Foundation grant in 2012 to explore the combination of origami and compliant mechanisms. (Joint-less, elastic structures that use flexibility to create movement.)

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