Often used as a tool for relaxation – or a murderous weapon if you’re watching Seven Psychopaths – the art of paper folding, or Origami, can now add another use to its resume, as a team of engineers from Brigham Young University has been in touch with an origami mathematician to figure out the best way to create a folding solar panel for new space probes.
The challenge for the probe designers and now the origami expert, is that the solar panel must be as small form factor as possible, whilst providing the largest surface area when unfolded. The probe needs a lot of power, but getting that without creating something that will tear off in the Earth’s atmosphere is no easy feat.
However as Wired points out, the engineers in this instance are no strangers to using outside sciences to solve space engineering problems. One member of the team has already been given a fellowship in the lab, because of her use of jointless, elastic structures in design. In the following video, she describes how the use of folding and origami techniques, has allowed them to create whole new ways of getting traditionally heavy materials into space in a much more efficient and cost effective manner.[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3E12uju1vgQ’]
As it stands, the team has a working prototype that should unfold from a very small footprint, into a solar panel that’s over 1.25 metres across. However they plan to continue working with origami and solar panel designs to help create larger and larger surfaces with smaller and smaller folded forms.
KitGuru Says: I feel like this could be a fun mod for Kerbal Space Program. Solar panel origami. If you guys make it, I’m happy to take all the credit for the idea.