Rotary-actuated folding polyhedrons for midwater investigation of delicate marine organisms

Zhi Ern Teoh, Harvard University
Brennan T. Phillips, University of Rhode Island
Kaitlyn P. Becker, Harvard University
Griffin Whittredge, Harvard University
James C. Weaver, Harvard University
Chuck Hoberman, Harvard University
David F. Gruber, Baruch College
Robert J. Wood, Harvard University

Document Type Article


Self-folding polyhedra have emerged as a viable design strategy for a wide range of applications, with advances largely made through modeling and experimentation at the micro- and millimeter scale. Translating these concepts to larger scales for practical purposes is an obvious next step; however, the size, weight, and method of actuation present a new set of problems to overcome. We have developed large-scale folding polyhedra to rapidly and noninvasively enclose marine organisms in the water column. The design is based on an axisymmetric dodecahedron net that is folded by an external assembly linkage. Requiring only a single rotary actuator to fold, the device is suited for remote operation onboard underwater vehicles and has been field-tested to encapsulate a variety of delicate deep-sea organisms. Our work validates the use of self-folding polyhedra for marine biological applications that require minimal actuation to achieve complex motion. The device was tested to 700 m, but the system was designed to withstand full ocean depth (11 km) pressures. We envision broader terrestrial applications of rotary-actuated folding polyhedra, ranging from large-scale deployable habitats and satellite solar arrays to small-scale functional origami microelectromechanical systems.