We’re one small step closer to having Dragon Ball‘s miraculous capsules, thanks to a group of scientists that have created a metamaterial that can be programmed to change its shape, volume and stiffness.
The scientists, led by Harvard Associate Professor of the Natural Sciences Katia Bertoldi, were inspired by a form of origami called Snapology, which involves connecting folded pieces of paper together to create a variety of geometric shapes. The metamaterial’s basic unit is a cross made of seven rhombohedrons.
By connecting pneumatic actuators on the sides of each of rhombohedron, the scientists are able to manipulate the metamaterial at will. To demonstrate their invention, the scientists made samples of the metamaterial using PET and double-sided tape then connected them as a 4x4x4 cube.
Johannes T. B. Overvelde, who also worked on the metamaterial, told Harvard that their creation “works from the nanoscale to the meter-scale and could be used to make anything from surgical stents to portable pop-up domes for disaster relief.” Further, it works with a variety of actuators, “including thermal, dielectric or even water.” You can read the scientists’ paper on Nature.