By: Tharanketha Kirupaneshan


Imagine a house that could fit in a suitcase or a wall that could become a window with the flick of a switch.

A new material has been developed that could potentially make shape-shifting buildings a reality. This object’s configuration is inspired by an origami technique known as ‘snapology’, in which paper structures snap from their folded flat forms to intricate 3D designs. The engineers at Harvard University have developed a type of foldable material that can be folded along their edges, acting like hinges. The team embedded pneumatic actuators (air pockets) into the structure, which allows change of size, shape and volume with a click of a button. The material has the capability to be embedded with any kind of actuator, including thermal, dielectric or even water.

This material consists the ability to change its material properties so it can be continuously attuning to different situations and environment, thus adding a forth dimension to the material. It has incredible strength that allows it to be able to withstand thousands of kilograms in weight, while being able to completely flatten out and bounce back into a 3-dimensional shape without any damage.


Another intriguing aspect is that this material is scalable from nanoscale to meter-scale dimensions, meaning that it can have numerous applications, from improving surgical tools to paving the way for pop-up architecture. “This structural system has fascinating implications for dynamic architecture including portable shelters, adaptive building facades, and retractable roofs,” said Chuck Hoberman, a designer on the Harvard team. The engineers also believe that the material can open many doors for pop-up domes for disaster relief.

You probably won’t see this tech in the real world for a few more years, but keep your fingers crossed and you might get to wander through a shape-shifting skyscraper in another decade or two as stated by one of the engineers.


For more information, access:




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: