Is self-folding fabric in our future?

 

Imagine a tarp that doesn’t require a tarping system to extend/retract…

Does it sound like an impossible dream? It could, in fact, become a reality sooner than you might think. A group of innovative minds at Yale has started developing a new fabric that can “harness complex curvature and limitless surface configurations as key functions.”

Wait, are you saying this fabric can fold itself?

Yes! The fabric uses a component called Nitinol SMA wire, which is made from a fiber-like material that can remember its shape and return to its original form all on its own. The team incorporated the use of sensors in the fabric, which helps it to understand changes in its environment and react accordingly. The possibilities of a robotic fabric like this are seemingly endless.

In their study, the researchers write:

“Here, we improve upon and process these responsive materials into functional fibers that we integrate into everyday fabrics and demonstrate as fabric-based robots that move, support loads, and allow closed-loop controls, all while retaining the desirable qualities of fabric. Robotic fabrics present a means to create smart adaptable clothing, self-deployable shelters, and lightweight shape-changing machinery.”

And, yes, this exciting new development could eventually lead to an innovative tarp fabric that could extend and retract on its own, thanks to memory sensors and Nitinol SMA wire.

As these researchers continue their studies and develop more prototypes, the future of fabrics looks brighter than ever.

Read the full article from Inverse to learn more about this study and see photos of how this “magic” fabric works.