“We wanted to have tuneable structures, which can change in order to be softer or stiffer, which meant they needed folding lines so we could easily change their shape. That’s when we got inspired to use origami folding.”
When one usually thinks about origami, images of folded paper cranes, frogs and boats come to mind. For Soroush Kamrava, he saw the potential for dextrous robotics, malleable building materials and much more. As a PhD candidate in the department of mechanical engineering, Kamrava has used the principles of the Japanese art of paper-folding to produce extraordinary mechanical metamaterials capable of changing their shape and stiffness by folding.
Designing and building mechanical devices is nothing new for Kamrava. As a child in his family’s machine shop in Iran, he enjoyed designing, building and flying RC airplanes, a hobby that would inspire a lifelong passion for engineering. After earning his bachelor of science in mechanical engineering in 2014, he moved to the US to attend Northeastern, completing his masters in mechanical engineering in 2017.
Today, Kamrava’s PhD research in Northeastern’s High Performance Structures and Materials Laboratory focuses on developing novel materials and structures capable of changing their shape and stiffness. And while the art of origami folding is centuries old, applying those principles to material and mechanical engineering is a much newer development; Kamrava’s research group was one of the first to focus on developing malleable origami-inspired structures.
Practical applications for this concept are already emerging for Kamrava and his team – they are investigating its potential to develop materials for a diverse array of applications, from self-inflating automobile tires and medical devices to energy harvesting and water coolant filtration systems for power plants.
After he completes his PhD in 2020, Kamrava says his ultimate goal is to create a startup to focus on mechanical metamaterials. Before that though, he plans to build his real-world experience working in industry, starting with an internship with a biomedical company in summer 2019, where he will assist in the design and development of orthopedic surgical equipment. For Kamrava, it’s all about the satisfaction of designing something that helps others in their daily lives.
“If I can design something that makes peoples’ lives a little bit easier, that’s a great achievement. That excites me, that motivates me.”