Pull this small tile outwards and it doesn’t shorten in the other dimension like a normal piece of material. Instead, its Islamic-inspired pattern twists and deforms so that it can grown in both directions.
Creating structures that unfurl when pulled apart isn’t anything particularly new: There are all kinds of exotic deployable structures that are used in everything from satellites to sports stadiums. But few are as beautiful as this one, reported on by New Scientist, which is actually inspired by the walls of Kharraqan towers — two mausoleums in northern Iran. Made from natural rubber, some cuts and hinges allow the shapes to expand leaving voids that create a new pattern.
The researchers behind it, from McGill University, think it could inspire new kinds of folding structures for satellites and medical devices. Personally, though, I think it could be used in its current rubber form to make a pretty great set of tables mats.