A team of researchers from China have developed a new graphene oxide-based paper that can fold, walk and turn corners on its own in response to changes in temperature.
Different regions of paper contract when they're heated with an infrared laser, and will relax again once the laser has been turned off.
The research was published in Science Advances, and the work was inspired by origami, the art form based on paper-folding. The paper itself was made up of two one-atom thick sheets of graphene, which is infused with hydrogen and oxygen compounds. This results in graphene oxide and graphene oxide-polydopamine.
While graphene oxide doesn't react to water, graphene oxide-polydopamine does, with the team infusing graphene oxide with water molecules, then bonding the two sheets together. When heat is applied, the water molecules are released, which makes the paper shrink slightly, pulling in the other sheet. Because of this, the creation of hinges and joints is possible, in a sense making the objects programmable.
To demonstrate the new concept, the team was able to bond sheets together to create a box, which is able to form itself.
The researchers think that the new research could lead to the development of objects that can be controlled by robots and could even help in the development of artificial muscle. Next up, the researchers want to create similar objects on a much smaller scale, even taking it down to nanosize, suggesting that the properties of the tiny objects would be different and hope to find out what those differences would be.
You can check out a video showing off the research below.