Shaping with Cells (and more…)

So… I’m obsessed with how “things” will get built, formed, grown in the future. I have written a bunch of posts around issues of recyclability and re-use, and the big differences between nature and human fabrication. Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about scale. The intelligence of a cell, versus the intelligence of a brick. As long as the brick is “dumb” you will never have a “smart” building. My current research has led me to look a lot at ubiquitous sensing, but it doesn’t achieve much if the raw material is unable to respond. So, I began to explore concepts around cellular manufacturing and then BOOM people begun sharing amazing links…

Cells that Fold like Origami

Scientists have grown connective tissue cells at the seam of polymer sheets the size of tiny cells. Those tissue cells react and fold, and the shape of the seams dictate the final form. The movie shows everything from a little sheet folding in half, or a cube, all the way to quite a complex polygon. The one at the end that rolls up into a tube is absolutely gorgeous. As usual the “purpose” of the research is to do with medical technology, saving lives and delivering drugs, which sounds all well and good. I’m imagining the inside of your cell phone configuring itself with the latest software upgrade so that the actual components improve over time…

Materials that Speak to One Another

Psychedelic diagram of how the pulse moves through the gel, changing the form. Click on the image to the source, there are some animations that explain things a little more...

Psychedelic diagram of how the pulse moves through the gel, changing the form. Click on the image to the source, there are some animations that explain things a little more…

I’ll admit I haven’t fully wrapped my mind around this one, and the image above doesn’t help that much. There is a Gel, the Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) Gel, that is able to pulse or oscillate in unison. Researchers have been able to get the pulsing to synchronize so that the material can interact. The goal is that the materials can trigger an action, such as moving closer or further apart from one another. As I understand it, the idea is for self-assembly within the material level. Anna Balazs, the lead researcher, puts it in terms of a construction kit, like lego, that can unsnap or snap itself together given the right triggers. Where the above example is physically triggered, it appears this one is triggered more by chemistry. A change in the chemistry of the material could lead to a change in the physical form. Our “bricks” would need to have integrated delivery of chemistry as information. Now that would be something fun to design…

Shape-memory Hydrogel

As soon as I posted this entry I found another example that needed to be included. So here it is… This is a hydrogel that acts as a liquid, but when it absorbs water it takes on a physical form. Researchers are hoping to use it in drug delivery, or tissue repair, and control its physicality through chemistry. Imagine something flowing through a system and then reacting on site, then shifting into a physical form that delivers a drug, or repairs damage. So far it works like a very loose sponge and filling up with water inside and out gives it the form. Interestingly, they are calling this a “metamaterial” – which is an artificial material with properties that do not appear in nature. Not sure if I fully understand that just yet…

If anyone out there has any other research, or links to research on this topic, please share!

One Comment on “Shaping with Cells (and more…)”

  1. Wendy Hastrich @ Wendy Hastrich Architect says:

    Absolutely fantastic to see this coming through again. VERY VERY interesting too.

    Wendy Hastrich Architect

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