Michael Tolley, who will become an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Jacobs School Nov. 1, is one of the co-authors on a paper about self-folding robots published in Science today. Tolley worked on the project while a postdoctoral researcher at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard.
"I am very excited to pursue similar unconventional approaches to the design and fabrication of robotic systems at UCSD," Tolley said in an email.
According to the paper:
The robot starts as a flat sheet with embedded electronics, and transforms autonomously into a functional machine. To accomplish this, we developed shape-memory composites that fold themselves along embedded hinges. We used these composites to recreate fundamental folded patterns, derived from computational origami, that can be extrapolated to a wide range of geometries and mechanisms. This origami-inspired robot can fold itself in 4 minutes and walk away without human intervention, demonstrating the potential both for complex self-folding machines and autonomous, self-controlled assembly.On his website, Tolley describes his contribution as "development of origami-inspired design and fabrication approaches for the fabrication of function electromechanical machines."
The paper has received ample media attention, including:
The Wall Street Journal
The New York Times
In addition to origami robots, Tolley is interested in soft robotics. He has developed untethered soft robots with integrated power and control systems. Check out this video:
Tolley also has worked on programmable matter, a substance that can follow directions to change its physical properties. According to his website:
Imagine a system that assembles a pile of regular, mass-produced components into an iPod, computer, robot, or tool with embedded sensing and computation. Objects can be assembled or repaired on-the-fly, and deconstructed to be recycled into new objects when they are no longer needed. This technology would open up new possibilities for rapid prototyping, space exploration, sustainable technology, and evolutionary design.Cool videos illustrating the process below: