Scientists at Cambridge University have developed a range of "morphing" structures that could be used to create roll-up laptop computers and display screens.
The materials can take multiple configurations without the need for complex parts or sophisticated manufacturing, according to Dr Keith Seffen, from the university's Department of Engineering.
"They offer substantial shape-changing capabilities whilst preserving structural integrity," he explained.
"They are simply made and their operation does not rely on advanced materials. They afford compact, inexpensive solutions for multifunction devices which are required to be lightweight, stiff but foldable on demand."
By using an ordinary sheet of metal, Seffen and his co-workers Dr Simon Guest and graduate student Alex Norman can produce structures with no moving parts but which can be configured between at least two distinct, self-locking and stable forms.
For example, an A5-sized flat screen can be snapped into the shape of a tube for compact carriage in a briefcase or pocket.
Devices based on this material do not require hinges, latches or locks, and without these extra parts, production times and costs are reduced compared to traditional folding structures.
In addition to laptops, Seffen said that the materials could also be incorporated into reusable packaging roll-up keyboards and even self-erecting tents.
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