MRS Bulletin

Technical Features

Technical Features

Self-folding thin-film materials: From nanopolyhedra to graphene origami

Vivek B. Shenoya1 and David H. Graciasa2

a1 Engineering Department, Brown University;

a2 Departments of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Chemistry and the Institute for Nanobiotechnology, The Johns Hopkins University;


Self-folding of thin films is a more deterministic form of self-assembly wherein structures curve or fold up either spontaneously on release from the substrate or in response to specific stimuli. From an intellectual standpoint, the study of the self-folding of thin films at small size scales is motivated by the observation that a large number of naturally occurring materials such as leaves and tissues show curved, wrinkled, or folded micro- and nanoscale geometries. From a technological standpoint, such a self-assembly methodology is important since it can be used to transform the precision of existing planar patterning methods, such as electron-beam lithography, to the third dimension. Also, the self-folding of graphene promises a means to create a variety of three-dimensional carbon-based micro- and nanostructures. Finally, stimuli responsive self-folding can be used to realize chemomechanical and tether-free actuation at small size scales. Here, we review theoretical and experimental aspects of the self-folding of metallic, semiconducting, and polymeric films.

Key Words:

  • Biomimetic (assembly);
  • nanoscale;
  • lithography (deposition);
  • microelectromechanical (MEMS);
  • microelectronics