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Published June 2019 | Submitted + Published
Journal Article Open

Autonomous Deployment of a Solar Panel Using an Elastic Origami and Distributed Shape Memory Polymer Actuators


We introduce a metamaterial-based self-deployable system with a rotational periodicity. As a demonstration, we propose an autonomous solar panel array that is programmed to self-deploy in response to changes in the surrounding temperature. We achieve shape reconfiguration and structural stability by exploiting the physical properties in the constituting material and the architecture of the wedge-shaped unit cell. The unit cell consists of one arm of the elastic "flasher" origami and a pair of scissor mechanisms. First, kinematic analysis shows the difference between the theoretical behavior and behavior considering the physical dimensions. This is used to optimize the expansion ratio. Second, the deployment mechanics are enabled through the shape-memory effect inherent in the underlying polymer. A viscoelastic constitutive model is constructed to accurately predict the self-expanding behavior. Lastly, the collapsing and deployment dynamics are discussed. Bifurcation is observed during folding, leading to two different end states, a disk or a cone. By investigating the energy landscape of the system, an apparatus is introduced to enable the disk-shaped folding. A two-stage expansion is observed during deployment. The system first rotates and then expands radially. The resulting system is three-dimensionally (3D) printed, achieves an expansion ratio of 1000% in under 40 s, and shows excellent agreement with simulation prediction both in the collapsed and expanded configurations.

Additional Information

© 2019 Published by the American Physical Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. Further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article's title, journal citation, and DOI. Received 22 October 2018; revised manuscript received 14 April 2019; published 28 June 2019. C.D. acknowledges support from the Army Research Office Grant No. W911NF-17-1-0147 and the Caltech-JPL President's and Director's Fund Program. The authors thank Jung-Chew Tse for fabrication support. The first author acknowledges fruitful discussions with L. Zimmermann.

Attached Files

Published - PhysRevApplied.11.064069.pdf

Submitted - 1810.08978.pdf


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August 19, 2023
October 20, 2023