Origami structures with a critical transition to bistability arising from hidden degrees of freedom

Nat Mater. 2015 Apr;14(4):389-93. doi: 10.1038/nmat4232. Epub 2015 Mar 9.


Origami is used beyond purely aesthetic pursuits to design responsive and customizable mechanical metamaterials. However, a generalized physical understanding of origami remains elusive, owing to the challenge of determining whether local kinematic constraints are globally compatible and to an incomplete understanding of how the folded sheet's material properties contribute to the overall mechanical response. Here, we show that the traditional square twist, whose crease pattern has zero degrees of freedom (DOF) and therefore should not be foldable, can nevertheless be folded by accessing bending deformations that are not explicit in the crease pattern. These hidden bending DOF are separated from the crease DOF by an energy gap that gives rise to a geometrically driven critical bifurcation between mono- and bistability. Noting its potential utility for fabricating mechanical switches, we use a temperature-responsive polymer-gel version of the square twist to demonstrate hysteretic folding dynamics at the sub-millimetre scale.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biocompatible Materials / chemistry*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Computer-Aided Design
  • Drug Stability
  • Gels / chemistry
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Materials Testing
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Molecular Structure
  • Polymers / chemistry
  • Thermodynamics


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Gels
  • Polymers