Researchers from Harvard University have made an interesting discovery while working on another project. The team of researchers set out to fabricate new springs to support an imaging project inspired by a cephalopod. What they ended up doing was creating a shape rarely seen in nature called the hemihelix.
When the team created that shape, they began to wonder if it was a random occurrence or if specific factors controlled the formation of the hemihelix. Resulting experiments gave the scientists the ability to create the structures predictably and consistently. Experiments involved using rubber strips that were stretched, joined, and released.
The team also used numerical simulations in their experiments. Now that the team can reliably produce the hemihelix, they say that they might be able to mimic the geometrical features in a new molecule that could lead to advances in nanodevices such as sensors, resonators, and electromagnetic wave absorbers.
The hemihelix that the researchers discovered has multiple "perversions." A perversion occurs when the direction of the spiral in a corkscrew shape changes periodically. The goal when the hemihelix discovery was made was to create two-dimensional springs using two strips of rubber of different lengths. The shorter strip was stretched to the same length as the longer strip and then they were stuck together. Researchers found that when a strip is very wide compared to its height it produces a helix. More investigation revealed that there is an aspect ratio that causes the resulting shape transitions from a helix to a hemihelix with periodic reversals or perversions.