Origami in Space: BYU-designed solar arrays inspired by origami



Origami is a source of inspiration for BYU mechanical engineers who are working with the National Science Foundation, NASA/JPL and origami master Robert Lang to design complaint mechanisms for use in space and in other applications.
(Video produced by BYU News. Producer Julie Walker, Photographer Brian Wilcox, Editor Samuel Reimer. Additional images provided by NASA/JPL, langorigami.com, BYU Compliant Mechanisms Research Group, Matthew Gong, and Carrie Henzie (Redpath Museum).
See more about BYU space research and collaborations with origami master Robert Lang at http://bit.ly/17WMdRX

BYU engineers turn to origami to solve astronomical space problem; Partnership with NASA could send origami to the final frontier

BYU engineers have teamed up with a world-renown origami expert to solve one of space exploration’s greatest (and 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.”

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.)

BYU was already working with NASA through the Jet Propulsion Lab, where grad student Shannon Zirbel has been instrumental in the project. The research team plans to work together for several more years on various projects, but hopes NASA can put their work to good use before they’re through.

“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.

The particular solar array developed by the group can be folded tightly down to a diameter of 2.7 meters and unfolded to its full size of 25 meters across. The goal is to create an array that can produce 250 kilowatts of power. Currently, the International Space Station has eight solar arrays that generate 84 kilowatts of energy.

Howell said origami through compliant mechanisms is a perfect fit for space exploration: It is low cost and the materials can handle harsh solar environments.

“Space is a great place for a solar panel because you don’t have to worry about nighttime and there are no clouds and no weather,” he said. “Origami could also be used for antennas, solar sails and even expandable nets used to catch asteroids.”

The research team has already looked beyond the final frontier for origami applications in engineering. Some applications Howell said may be possible include:

Stents or implants that can be inserted through small incisions before expanding inside the body
Phones that can be compact when you’re not using them and then unfold for use
Deployable housing or shelters that can be shipped or parachuted compactly and then expanded for emergency use

“If we can extend the knowledge of origami artists to work in materials beyond paper, it will lead to powerful systems with unprecedented performance,” Howell said. “We will do things no one has ever done before.”

source

Fahad Hameed

Fahad Hashmi is one of the known Software Engineer and blogger likes to blog about design resources. He is passionate about collecting the awe-inspiring design tools, to help designers.He blogs only for Designers & Photographers.

15 thoughts on “Origami in Space: BYU-designed solar arrays inspired by origami

  • September 16, 2017 at 12:01 pm
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    How about making something heavy as a house foldable? Or an entire windmill? Transport issues: solved.

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  • September 16, 2017 at 12:01 pm
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    all this is a good idea for no flexible materials.
    once you achieve that, I guess there is no way to improve the roll method.

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  • September 16, 2017 at 12:01 pm
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    NASA has been using folding solar panels for decades and even when they keep their designs K.I.S.S they still have deployment failures. These designs seem far more complex which means there is more things that can go wrong.

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  • September 16, 2017 at 12:01 pm
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    Fascinating new take on the old construction method of origami.  I look forward to seeing what can be done with these inspiring new unfolding satellites. Well produced and presented video.

    Reply
  • September 16, 2017 at 12:01 pm
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    Yes but, how are you going to get all those people up there to pull on the edges?

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  • September 16, 2017 at 12:01 pm
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    Engineers take physicists and mathematicians and make their ideas work

    Reply
  • September 16, 2017 at 12:01 pm
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    НЕТ СОМНЕНИЯ ЧТО АМЕРИКА ВЕЛИКАЯ СТРАНА !

    Reply

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