Generally, something that buckles under strain is regarded as a bad idea, but the newly devised buckliball is designed to do just that. Crafted by a team of MIT and Harvard engineers, it marks the first morphable structure to incorporate buckling as a desirable engineering design element.

Named from its visual similarity to the buckyball, the buckliball is a hollow, soft shape, with no moving parts but 24 dimples. When the air is sucked out of the middle, the structure simultaneously collapses from all sides, creating a stable form around half the size of the original.


What use is that (apart from obviously awesome toys)? If this technique can be ported to a number of different shapes and sizes, you have a wide variety of objects that can switch between two sizes readily. It could even be used as a mechanical joint, with hinge-points decided by the pattern of dimples in the rubber. What about other uses? Collapsible roofs or walls, tiny drug-delivery capsules or soft movable joints requiring no mechanical pieces.

Photos: Jongmin Shim, Katia Bertoldi and Pedro Reis