Researchers drew on kirigami to create a material giving shoes extra grip on slippery surfaces. Credit: Diemut Strebe.

Harnessing Kirigami for Fall Prevention: A Revolutionary Approach

Kirigami-inspired anti-slip solutions:
Icy or slippery conditions pose a significant threat to personal safety, especially during the winter months. Traditional methods of fall prevention often involve the use of anti-slip materials, but a groundbreaking approach inspired by Japanese paper-cutting art, specifically kirigami, could revolutionize our efforts to mitigate falls. Kirigami, a variation of origami that involves both folding and cutting paper, has paved the way for innovative solutions to enhance friction and prevent accidents on icy or wet surfaces.

Understanding Kirigami:
Origins of kirigami date back to many centuries in Japan, where intricate paper-cutting art forms were developed. Unlike traditional origami, kirigami incorporates precise cutting techniques to create more complex and dynamic structures. This art form’s potential lies in its ability to transition from 2D to 3D, offering versatility that is crucial for developing materials with enhanced friction for fall prevention.

Friction-Boosting Material:
Researchers, particularly a team from MIT, took inspiration from kirigami and applied its principles to develop a material that boosts friction in slippery conditions. This innovative approach involves applying kirigami to the material surfaces of shoes to generate a dynamic system that produces friction, helping to prevent slips and falls. The kirigami-inspired shoe grips are designed to increase friction between the shoe and the ground, with the cuts in the material popping out into spikes when the shoe bends and stretches along the soles. When the foot flattens, the spikes fold back into the material, creating a smooth surface again. This breakthrough innovation represents a fusion of ancient Japanese artistry and cutting-edge scientific research, addressing a common problem with a unique approach.

Shoe sole when stretched.1
Shoe sole when flat.2

Shape Transition and Needles:
MIT’s groundbreaking research involved shape transition from a 2D flat surface to a 3D geometry with needle-like protrusions.3 These needles act as micro-structures that engage with the surface, significantly improving grip. The transition from a flat surface to a textured, three-dimensional structure enhances the material’s ability to adapt to varying terrains, ensuring effective fall prevention in diverse conditions.

Advantages Over Traditional Methods:
Compared to conventional anti-slip materials, kirigami-inspired coatings offer several advantages. The dynamic nature of the material allows for better adaptation to different surfaces, providing consistent friction across various terrains. Additionally, the incorporation of cutting techniques in kirigami allows for tailored designs, optimizing the material’s effectiveness in preventing falls. Human-gait experiments for fall prevention demonstrated that the kirigami shoe grips generate 20 to 35 percent higher friction than traditional shoe soles. The dynamic nature of the kirigami-based soles allows for a more effective modulation of friction, making them a promising solution for fall protection in various environments, especially in slippery conditions.4

Potential Applications and Future Developments:
Several research institutions have been working on developing footwear with kirigami technology for fall protection. They have developed kirigami-inspired shoe grips that use the principles of kirigami to create anti-slip solutions for footwear. These grips are designed to increase friction between the shoe and the ground, helping to prevent slips and falls, especially in icy or wet conditions. The application of kirigami-inspired materials extends beyond footwear. Researchers are exploring its potential in developing anti-slip coatings for various surfaces, such as handrails, floors, and even vehicles. The continuous refinement of these materials holds promise for a safer environment in icy or slippery conditions, impacting not only personal safety but also public spaces and transportation.

The marriage of Japanese paper-cutting art, kirigami, and cutting-edge scientific research have given rise to a revolutionary approach in fall prevention. The development of friction-boosting materials inspired by kirigami principles showcases the power of combining traditional knowledge with modern innovation. As we anticipate further advancements in this field, the prospect of creating safer environments in icy conditions becomes increasingly tangible, ultimately contributing to the well-being of individuals and communities worldwide.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. It is not a substitute for consulting with an appropriate professional or obtaining legal advice tailored to your specific situation. The author/creator of this content makes no representations or warranties of any kind. Reliance on any information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk.

Title Image credit: Researchers drew on kirigami to create a material giving shoes extra grip on slippery surfaces. Credit: Diemut Strebe.

1 Image credit: Fox, A. (2020, June 3). New no-slip sole takes inspiration from the Japanese art of kirigami. Smithsonian Magazine.
2 ibid.
3 National Science Foundation. (2020, August 28). Dynamic kirigami shoe-grip is designed to reduce risks of slips and falls. National Science Foundation.
4 Babaee, S., Pajovic, S., Rafsanjani, A., Shi, Y., Bertoldi, K., & Traverso, G. (2020). Bioinspired kirigami metasurfaces as assistive shoe grips. Nature Biomedical Engineering, 4, 778–786.

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