Origami is the ancient Japanese art form of folding paper into complex 3D structures. Kirigami is a variation that includes cutting the paper to create more intricate designs. Scientists have applied the latter technique to graphene, a material made of a honeycomb pattern of carbon atoms with many useful properties: 200 times stronger than steel by weight, it efficiently conducts heat and electricity and is nearly transparent. Graphene is made from incredibly thin sheets just one atom thick, a stack of 140,000 equalling the thickness of a piece of paper. Graphene kirigami can be used to build mechanical metamaterials – materials engineered to have properties that haven’t been found in nature – such as stretchable electrodes, hinges, and springs (as shown here). With these unique properties at the atomic scale, this technology could help create medical sensors able to monitor single cells or nanoscale robots keeping us healthy from inside our bodies.
Written by Kevin Pollock
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