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Jul 9, 2020

Programmable balloons pave the way for new shape-morphing devices

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, information science

Balloon shaping isn’t just for kids anymore. A team of researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has designed materials that can control and mold a balloon into pre-programmed shapes. The system uses kirigami sheets—thin sheets of material with periodic cuts—embedded into an inflatable device. As the balloon expands, the cuts in the kirigami sheet guide the growth, permitting expansion in some places and constricting it in others. The researchers were able to control the expansion not only globally to make large-scale shapes, but locally to generate small features.

The team also developed an inverse design strategy, an algorithm that finds the optimum design for the kirigami inflatable device that will mimic a target shape upon inflation.

“This work provides a new platform for shape-morphing devices that could support the design of innovative medical tools, actuators and reconfigurable structures,” said Katia Bertoldi, the William and Ami Kuan Danoff Professor of Applied Mechanics at SEAS and senior author of the study.

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