The researchers found that some origami muscles could squeeze down to a tenth of their original size, or lift up to a thousand times their own weight. They could produce roughly six times as much force per unit of area as mammalian muscle.
Each fold pattern can only move in one way, but Rus said many different patterns could be linked together for a multifunctional robot, like an origami Swiss Army knife.
Such robotic limbs could be used at tiny scales, perhaps to do repair work inside of our bodies. They could be useful at large scales, for building in outer space. They could enable wearable exoskeletons for lifting heavy objects, or be sent to probe deep-sea environments. They could even do the most deceptively mundane tasks -- such as lifting a heavy carton of milk or a bunch of grapes without squashing them.
A more human-scale proof of concept could be next on the to-build list, the scientist said.
"I want to make an elephant," Rus said with a laugh. "Or maybe a baby elephant."
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