Material Prospects I & II

In the 21st Century, materials are no longer thought of as being static, uniform, bulk resources that must be cut, milled, cast, or formed into manufactured products for architecture and other constructed environments. In our age, where the domestication of atoms and genes has led to the design of materials at the molecular scale, researchers are fundamentally altering the properties of matter, how it is formed, and how we experience it. Today’s new materials are grown or created from the bottom-up, and they are made to express various behaviors and functions that we have designed for them.

As such, recent advancements in the development of new materials offer tremendous possibilities for innovation and fresh experiences. This is particularly so with smart materials, biomaterials, and other nanostructured materials that adapt to changes that they “sense” in their environment, such as variations in temperature, humidity, pressure, or light. From new substances that change color, fluidity, and shape, to metamaterials and advanced biocompounds that luminesce and generate water, these advancements in the creation of novel materials offer an increasingly broad array of opportunities to contemporary architects and designers.

Therefore, during these two Material Prospects learning modules, you’ll be learning about recent developments in smart materials (Material Prospects I) and biomaterials (Material Prospects II), and then you’ll generate some ideas that envision how these substances might be used, innovatively and/or creatively, in the making of future constructed environments. Your work will be important, because your ideas will lend vision to a range of possible new futures, with things that don’t exist yet. As you work to excite our imagination, the quality, credibility, and originality of your ideas and vision will matter.

Material Prospects I & II will take place on July 11, 2024. The morning session, Material Prospects I, will focus on smart materials. Requirements for Assignment ONE : Smart Materials will be discussed. The afternoon session, Material Prospects II, will focus on biomaterials. Assignment TWO : Biomaterials will be introduced and discussed, through a short ideation workshop. The schedule is as follows. Please note that you need to complete some assigned activities before we meet on July 11th.

  • choose one or two other students to work with and, together, form a two- or three-person team; teams must be two or three people, not more
  • visit our Material Prospects I & II MIRO Collaboration Board and enter the first and last names of all of the people on your team (you’ll see a zone for TEAMS, where you can post the names on a post-it)
  • read all of the SELECTED REPORTS for Assignment ONE that are listed below
  • from this list of selected reports, your team is to choose one reported material discovery as a prompt that excites your imagination
  • meet with your team to discuss how this particular material discovery might serve as a means to create constructed environments that creatively address or engage (but need not solve) an issue that your team has identified
  • and then, post a few of your initial ideas as sketches, images, words or whatever in an area somewhere on our Material Prospects I & II MIRO Collaboration Board, along with a bit of information on your chosen material
  • you will be using this MIRO Collaboration Board to present your initial ideas for discussion on July 11th
  • make sure you get all of this done before the 10:00 AM deadline on July 10th, as the MIRO Collaboration Board is meant to enable others to have time to look at what you posted (late postings after 10AM will be noted by the instructor)
10:00 AMHellos!
10:05 AMPeter Yeadon will deliver a presentation on advanced materials and materials-driven innovation, with a focus on smart materials.
Requirements for Assignment ONE : Smart Materials are discussed.
11:00 AMEach team talks about the advanced material they chose to consider for Assignment ONE, and how their team thinks the material might be used to creatively address or engage an issue (or issues) that they’ve identified … you’ll have 5 minutes to present a few ideas using the MIRO Board (and another 5 minutes to receive some feedback from classmates), so please practice in advance and be concise.
12:30 PMBreak for Lunch
1:30 PMWe continue with the remaining teams talking about the advanced material they chose to consider for Assignment ONE, and how their teams think the material might be used to creatively address or engage an issue (or issues) that they’ve identified … you’ll have 5 minutes to present a few ideas using the MIRO Board (and another 5 minutes to receive some feedback from classmates), so please practice in advance and be concise.
2:00 PMPeter Yeadon will deliver a presentation on biomaterials, with a focus on advanced biocompounds.
Requirements for Assignment TWO : Biomaterials are introduced and discussed.
3:00 PMIdeation Workshop for Assignment TWO.
4:00 PMGroup Photos!

After our class meets, your team will develop and submit Assignment ONE : Smart Materials, which is an illustrated essay that describes (in 500 of your own words) and illustrates (with not more than five original images that your team has created) what the specific material is and how it might be used to creatively address/engage an issue that you have identified.

For Assignment ONE, you might decide to focus on issues surrounding health, or safety, or energy, or climate change, or privacy, or community, or memory, or play, or provocation, or territory, or communication, or war, or new experiences, or displacement, or one of any number of issues that architects can engage by design. The kind of issue that you identify doesn’t really matter, and you’re not being asked to solve anything either; however, in developing and articulating your proposition, you should consider a range of critical questions, including:

  • What is the issue that your design proposition addresses/engages, and why is this issue of concern?
  • How would your design address/engage this issue?
  • How would your design make use of, and be enabled by, the material discovery that you selected?
  • Does the selected material technology enable us to do something that we haven’t been able to do before?
  • Is the material vital to the proposed design/application?
  • What new challenges or problems might the design/application introduce?

Assignment TWO : Biomaterials will be introduced during our class on July 11th. After our class meets, your team will develop and submit Assignment TWO : Biomaterials, which will also be an illustrated proposition for a particular biomaterial that you will be introduced to. As in the first assignment, you’ll be considering various applications for this biomaterial as well.

Be original. If the work, ideas, and words of others are used in any way, then properly identify and cite their information. The passing off of someone else’s ideas, writing, or work as one’s own is plagiarism; it is a form of academic misconduct that carries a penalty. Similarly, do not submit any images or texts or trademarks that you do not own (i.e., that may infringe on the copyright of others). If you’re using generative AI (e.g, DALL-E or Midjourney) to create your images, that’s super and welcome, but please include the text prompts that you used for each image as a reference.

Late submissions or incomplete submissions will receive an F.

For Assignment ONE : Smart Materials, your team is to choose only one recent material advancement from the following list. Click on the titles for hyperlinks to the reports (for any of the links or links, you might have to delete the cache/cookies for their site and reload). Some of these reports provide technical details/data on the science behind the discoveries. We’re not scientists, we’re designers, so please don’t get lost in those details that are published in the original scientific papers. The important thing is to grasp the general conclusions of what’s possible and what’s not.

A plastic that can be re-formed as needed

What if one single polymer could be coaxed into anything from a rubber band-like material or a ball of silly putty to a flexible sheet of plastic or a stiff, molded device? Researchers at the University of Chicago have developed such a substance, a pluripotent plastic that can take on many final forms.

iWood technology – integrating tactile sensing with natural wood for smart, responsive environments

Researchers in China have developed an intelligent iontronic wood (iWood) device that integrates highly sensitive pressure mapping capabilities into natural wood. The innovation enables wooden objects and surfaces to dynamically sense and digitize complex human touch interactions without any change to the underlying material.

Perovskite PV films at room temperature

Researchers have made high-efficiency perovskite solar cell coatings that enable free-form designs capable of powering the ever-increasing array of things. The new production process is also extremely gentle. To demonstrate this, the team prepared a perovskite layer on fresh leaves, a feat that was impossible with previous, high-temperature processes for solar cells.

Shining a light on 4D printed liquid crystals switches colors and transforms shapes

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have developed and 3D printed liquid crystal elastomers with reprogrammable photochromism (light-driven color change) and synergistic photoactuation (light-driven shape change), allowing for remote and precise control over both the color and shape change.

3D-printable glass is made from proteins and biodegrades

Researchers in China have transformed amino acids and peptides — the building blocks of proteins — into glass. Not only is the biomolecular glass transparent, but it can be 3D printed and cast in molds. The paper suggests that the glass biodegrades pretty quickly, but wouldn’t be suitable for some applications such as drinks bottles because the liquid would cause it to decompose.

Liquid crystal polymer learns to move and grab objects

Researchers at Aalto University and Tampere University succeeded in conditioning a solid gel so that it melted to become liquid under the influence of light alone. The same researchers have taught a liquid crystal polymer to move, and to stick to an object of a given color.

Temperature-sensing building material changes color to save energy

A chameleon-like building material that changes its infrared color—and how much heat it absorbs or emits—based on the outside temperature. On hot days, the material can emit up to 92 percent of the infrared heat it contains, helping cool the inside of a building. On colder days, however, the material emits just 7 percent of its infrared, helping keep a building warm.

New material could be used to make a liquid metal robot

A liquid metal lattice that can be crushed but returns to its original shape on heating has been developed by Pu Zhang and colleagues at Binghamton University (State University of New York at Binghamton). The team created the liquid metal lattice using a special mixture of bismuth, indium and tin known as Field’s alloy. This alloy is then encapsulated in a silicone shell membrane.

‘Smart Plastic’ Material is Step Forward Toward Soft, Flexible Robotics and Electronics

Inspired by living things from trees to shellfish, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin set out to create a plastic much like many life forms that are hard and rigid in some places and soft and stretchy in others­. Their success is a first: using only light and a catalyst to change properties such as hardness and elasticity in molecules of the same type.

A multifunctional shape-morphing elastomer with liquid metal inclusions

A soft multifunctional material composed of liquid crystal elastomer embedded with microscale droplets of liquid metal. The material can function like a soft artificial muscle actuator and can be programmed to reversibly change shape when stimulated with heat or electricity.

Self-charging, ultra-thin device that generates electricity from air moisture

Imagine being able to generate electricity by harnessing moisture in the air around you with just everyday items like sea salt and a piece of fabric, or even powering everyday electronics with a non-toxic battery that is as thin as paper. Researchers have developed a new moisture-driven electricity generation device made of a thin layer of fabric consisting of sea salt, carbon ink, and a hydrogel.

Objects can now change colors like a chameleon

A team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) has created a new system that uses reprogrammable ink to let objects change colors when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) and visible light sources. Dubbed “PhotoChromeleon,” the system uses a mix of photochromic dyes that can be sprayed or painted onto the surface of any object to change its color — a fully reversible process that can be repeated infinitely.

HELIOS (Healable, Low-field Illuminating Optoelectronic Stretchable) Elastomers

The new stretchable material, when used in light-emitting capacitor devices, enables highly visible illumination at much lower operating voltages, and is also resilient to damage due to its self-healing properties.

Mechanoluminescent polymer lights up under stress

An international team of researchers has made polyurethanes that glow a variety of colors when stretched. The material then instantly switches off when relaxed, thanks to mechanically interlocked molecular structures called rotaxanes. The team made blue-, green-, and orange-glowing polymers and combined them to produce a white one.

Acoustic textile can hear sounds

A piezoelectric fiber that enables fabrics to detect sound has been developed. According to the research team, a single strand of this fiber can turn tens of square meters of fabric into a microphone that senses mechanical vibrations created by sound and converts them into an electrical signal.

Janus textile could keep you warm and cool you down

Researchers in Belgium have unveiled the design for a fabric that could keep a person warm when worn one way, while cooling them down if worn inside out.

Scientists invent threads to detect gases when woven

A novel fabrication method produces dyed threads that change color when they detect a variety of gases. The researchers demonstrated that the threads can be read visually, or even more precisely by use of a smartphone camera, to detect changes of color due to analytes as low as 50 parts per million.