Ancient Japanese Artform Makes Tape Stronger

Researchers found that kirigami, the Japanese art of cutting paper, can make tape up to 60 times stronger.

Aug 12, 2023
Ancient Japanese Artform Makes Tape Stronger | Researchers found that kirigami, the Japanese art of cutting paper, can make tape up to 60 times stronger.

Tape, from masking tape, to Scotch tape, has many practical uses. Now, researchers have found a way to make tape more useful by making it both stronger and easier to remove all at the same time. Wrapping presents will never be the same again.

Using an ancient art
A June of 2023, study published  in Nature Materials. may have heralded in a new era in adhesive technology. The researchers ,from Virginia Tech were led by Dr. Michael Bartlett, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech, discovered that they could control the separation path of a piece of tape by using the ancient Japanese art of kirigami.

According to New Atlas, kirigami is a form of art in which little cuts are made in folded pieces of paper to create a three-dimensional figure. The researchers found that they could use this art-form to create U-shaped slits into tape. When pulled in one direction, the tape was sixty times stronger than conventional tape, but when pulled in the other direction, the tape came off easily.

“It is common to make adhesive bonds stronger but harder to remove,” Bartlett told New Atlas, "It’s also common to make those bonds less strong but easy to remove. The challenge is making it both stronger and still easy to remove, and that’s what we’ve achieved."

This novel technology works because as the tape is bent, and peeled, it requires greater force to remove it where it is open, according to a news release from Virginia Tech. When bent  in one direction, the cuts in the tape force the path of separation to go backwards, which requires a lot more force. When bent the other way the path of separation goes forward, allowing the tape to smoothly disengage from the surface it is attached to.

The Brick Test
In order to test the tape, the researchers conducted a fun little test. They took two empty cardboard boxes and taped them for shipping. One box was taped with regular tape, and the other was taped with kirigami tape. 

Then the researchers dropped a brick on each of the boxes. The brick broke the box with the regular tape within two tries. The kirigami box however, lasted a lot longer. The brick even bounced off the top of the box on the third try.

There are a myriad of practical applications for stronger tape, from packing boxes, as seen above, to electrical applications. In addition, it can be useful for reusable packaging, making it more sustainable than regular tape. Sometimes the best designs for the future come from the past.

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Tiki is a freelance writer, editor, and translator with a passion for writing stories. She believes in taking small actions to positively impact the world. She spends her free time reading, baking, creating art, and walking her rescue dog.