For every structural breakthrough with carbon fiber or nanotubes, it's interesting to see we still haven't maxed out the capabilities of more common materials. A trio of origami-minded researchers have discovered that if you cut common paper into a particular zig-zag pattern, then join it with another sheet of the same shape to form a kind of zipper, you get a freakishly strong structure. Even better, "The structure folds up flat, yet rapidly and easily expands to the rigid tube configuration."
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It's difficult to understand this "Zippered Tube" technique by looking at photos, but this video demonstration should make it more clear:
The far-flung researchers--grad student Evgueni Filipov from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Georgia Institute of Technology professor Glaucio Paulino and University of Tokyo professor Tomohiro Tachi--published their research this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.
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I'm hoping they'll release the patterns into the wild, allowing an army of curious makers to experiment with zippered tubes in paper, wood, plastic and metal. Can you imagine what an Izzy Swan, a Matthias Wandel or a Jimmy DiResta might be able to create with the technique?