Wednesday, November 12, 2014

New Materials from MIT Could Lead to Furniture that Builds Itself

(All Photos Self Assembly Lab, MIT)

h/t - @Instapundit

Popular Mechanics - In Skylar Tibbit's world, clothes adapt automatically to the world around them. Furniture assembles itself. So do water systems, robots, interactive retail spaces, and space infrastructure. When you’re the director of MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab, just about anything can adapt on its own.

"We think the applications are currently limitless," he says.

Tibbits, leads an MIT team of designers, scientists, architects, and engineers who are exploring what they call 4D printing, which takes 3D materials and adds another dimension by having them adjust to their changing environments. While this type of work has happened at the nanoscale in chemistry, Tibbits says, it’s about to scale up.

By taking well-known materials, anything from wood to carbon fiber, and adding in other materials that respond actively to energy, the pieces can form specific geometries designed by the engineers. For example, the lab has designed wood pieces that fold into small toys—elephants, in this case—when water hits the wood, because the wood moves in a particular way in response to moisture. A future application could involve weaving fabric that responds to heat into a garment.

"We try to design specific geometries that can respond to energy sources," Tibbits says. "When you mix geometry and material properties they can respond and change their state."     Read More