Natural disasters have a way of showing us how fragile and unpredictable our lives can be.
Survivors of such events often find themselves without some of the most basic necessities of daily life, including access to supplies. Which is why engineers at Hiroshima University in Japan developed a portable bridge that can be used to traverse rugged terrain or rivers, and then folded up like origami when it’s done.
Dr. Ichiro Ario and his team created the Mobile Bridge Version 4.0, which was inspired by the beautiful paper art, and debuted a prototype at the Japan Society of Civil Engineers symposium last month. The bridge folds up tightly for transport and can unfold itself in just five minutes. The engineers demonstrated how it can successfully hold the weight of multiple vehicles for up to one hour, and then squeezes back together – much like an accordion – in the same time it took to unwind.
The MB4.0 serves an essential function for situations in which people need access to supplies quickly and without the assistance of cranes or other machinery to set up portable or expanding bridges. The developers are hopeful the technology they have pioneered can also be used to update older bridges, poetically fortifying the structures of concrete and steel using the grace and precision of paper origami.