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"Cut and Paste" -- The Discovery Files

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Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have come up with a sticky solution to the places on the body, such as knees and elbows, that are difficult to bandage up. They designed a thin, lightweight, rubber-like film that relies on a pattern of slits -- similar to cuts in the paper-folding art form known as Kirgami -- in order to expertly cling to the body.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

The art of healing.

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files -- new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

The ancient art of Kirigami -- cutting paper and folding it to create amazing 3-D structures -- has inspired a cutting-edge design for bandages that stick better to large, bendable moving parts of the body, such as knees and elbows. Engineers at MIT demonstrated their Kirigami-inspired patches that could also possibly be used as heat pads or for wearable electronics.

Instead of paper, the researchers used a rubbery, flexible film, and cut offset rows of slits in the material. This design makes the material more stretchy but the team found it also helps it to stay adhered.

Using a thin adhesive coating, they attached the film to a volunteer's knee. It held solid for over a hundred knee bends while another film without the slits came unglued after the first knee bend. (Sound effect: kinda like me in gym class). (Sound effect: kid whines in gym class) I'm over it.

But there's real science behind the art. The team identified three main parameters that give Kirigami film its adhesion. By understanding each, design possibilities are endless. The researchers' findings become a blueprint for determining the best pattern of cuts for a given application. The team has filed a patent on the technology, and is beginning to experiment with Kirigami cuts on other materials.

Question: Should I put a Kirigami bandage on a paper cut?

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at nsf.gov or on our podcast.

 
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