Graphene paper can walk by itself, imagine the planes you could make

10 Nov 2015

Chinese researchers have developed a new way of programming paper to walk around and fold itself – although things like this have been done before, this paper is apparently stronger and more moveable.

The heat and water-controlled pieces of graphene-based paper can walk or fold thanks to minute expansions and contractions, with the right environment allowing for pretty cool experiments.

It’s all part of science’s, as yet unachieved, target of replicating organic tissue and muscles to an acceptable degree.

At the moment, our muscles are far more adaptive than anything scientists can muster up, but that’s not to say improvements are lacking.

Jiuke Mu and colleagues have developed a way to layer two types of graphene oxide – one inert to water, the other that absorbs it – in a specific series that resulted in “programmable” paper.

Folding paper

It absorbs all the moisture it can from its environment, laying flat, and when Mu shines a laser at it water evaporates and it closes up.

Another piece uses its folding as a way of moving along in a line. Although hardly Usain Bolt speeds, the manipulation achieved by Mu and his colleagues is still a step in the right direction, with greater achievements due on the back of this.

Walking paper

“We believe that these devices have the potential to be adapted to a wide range of applications such as sensing, artificial muscles, and robotics,” reads the paper in Science Advances.

Paper man image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic