Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Liquid Origami
23 June 2013

Liquid Origami

Einstein said that ‘creativity is intelligence having fun’, such as when biochemists thought of using a spray-nozzle finer than those in inkjet printers to squeeze out microscopic water droplets in a lotus-flower shape that folds itself into a hollow bulb (left vertical sequence, with computer simulation, right). Each water drop is coated in a lipid [fatty] membrane and the folding mechanism relies on osmosis, forcing water out of droplets lining the inside of the bulb (blue), and into the droplets on the outer skin containing a higher salt concentration (green in the left-hand side images, and pink or white on the right). The shrinking of the inner surface and the swelling of the skin then forces the petals together. Fun can be useful too. Beside flower bulbs, the technology promises to make structures that behave like living tissue, from electrically-conducting nerve fibres to artificial replacements for damaged ears.

Written by Tristan Farrow

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