It used to be the case that only skilled witches and wizards could make their origami fold itself. But now, clever Muggles have stumbled upon the non-magical secret behind autonomous paper—graphene.

Writing this week in Science Advances, a team of Chinese researchers reports on a new, graphene oxide-based paper that folds, walks and turns corners all by itself in response to changes in temperature. Active regions of the paper contract when heated with an infrared laser, relaxing again when the light turns off. Check it out in the video below; it really does look bewitched:

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We probably won’t be using graphene paper to write novels anytime soon, but self-actuating materials like this could lead to the development of low-cost sensors that respond to changes in temperature, humidity and pH. I’m also predicting a surge in the popularity of magic tricks involving infrared lasers disguised as wands.

[Read the full scientific paper at Science Advances]


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