Carefully folded paper saves the planet!

A piece of carefully folded paper

A piece of carefully folded paper

At the end of the last Protons for Breakfast presentation, TedX at Teddington pioneer Ed Hui handed me a piece of carefully folded paper, and with a self-mocking smile announced that this was the solution to Global Warming!

Of course there is no ‘solution to Global Warming’ – it is something we have to live with along with all its uncertainties. But there are a myriad ways to respond to the threat and generally behave smartly. If we imagine that there a thousand smart things to do, then Ed’s folded paper could well be a milliSolution – to use the SI units of problem solving.

How does a piece of folded paper solve anything? Well a sheet of paper is not enormously strong, but if folded correctly and sandwiched in between two other sheets it creates a shockingly light and rigid sheet

Folded Paper

Folded Paper with a layer on the top and bottom.

Sadly Ed was not the first to discover this. If you buy a Lack coffee table from Ikea for £7.14 and cut it open – which frankly you can afford to do at that price – you will find that the inside is made of corrugated paper! And if you venture into my laboratory and cut open my optical table – which frankly at £6000 you cannot afford to do – you will find a similar structure (actually a honey comb) made out of thin metal foil sandwiched between two metal plates. In each case companies have minimised cost and weight and maximised rigidity by thinking smart. And maybe Ed’s cleverly folded paper will inspire them to a new iteration of their designs. I hope so, because we could all benefit from a great deal of smarter thinking when it comes to Global Warming.

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3 Responses to “Carefully folded paper saves the planet!”

  1. Edmond Hui Says:

    Just a little more information on this- the paper is actually folded into a corrugated corrugation- it’s not just wavy in one direction, the waves themselves are wavy. Corrugated cardboard has a sheet of paper in the middle that is wavy in only one direction, which is why it is much more rigid in one direction than another. When this corrugated corrugation is sandwiched (I call it a ziggycomb because it’s a zigzag honeycomb) between two sheets, it’s equally rigid in all directions. It’s also stronger in horizontal shear forces than honeycomb sheet. Multiple sheets stuck together into a block is stronger and lighter in all directions than polystyrene foam. There’s a slight problem. I haven’t the faintest idea how the paper can be folded in an industrial process. It’s a devil to do and takes an hour or so to do an A4 sheet. Many people fold paper in this sort of way- there’s even a Flickr group-
    but I don’t know of anyone else who’s stuck a 60 degree corrugation between sheets to form a rigid material.
    If anyone wants to try, the best way is to draw a tessellation of equilateral triangles in a computer drawing program and print it on an inkjet printer- the ink weakens the paper slightly, making it easier to fold along the lines. The folds actually form 60-120 degree parallelograms- ie pairs of equilateral triangles. Email me if you’d like a pdf.

  2. protonsforbreakfast Says:

    Ziggycomb 🙂 I like that

  3. Awesome Water Rocket « Protons for Breakfast Blog Says:

    […] AND very light. I thought you might be interested to note that they solved this problem exactly as I described a week or so ago – using corrugated cardboard sandwiched between two sheets of thin carbon […]

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