Project by Skylar Tibbits for MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab explores materials that can alter their shape under certain conditions, from carbon fiber and fabric to woodgrain:
Programmable Materials consist of material compositions that are designed to become highly dynamic in form and function, yet they are as cost-effective as traditional materials, easily fabricated and capable of flat-pack shipping and self-assembly. These new materials include: self-transforming carbon fiber, printed wood grain, custom textile composites and other rubbers/plastics, which offer unprecedented capabilities including programmable actuation, sensing and self-transformation, from a simple material.
Nearly every industry has long desired smarter materials and robotic-like transformation from apparel, architecture, product design and manufacturing to aerospace and automotive industries. However, these capabilities have often required expensive, error-prone and complex electromechanical devices (motors, sensors, electronics), bulky components, power consumption (batteries or electricity) and difficult assembly processes. These constraints have made it difficult to efficiently produce dynamic systems, higher-performing machines and more adaptive products, until now. Our goal is true material robotics or robots without robots.
A couple of examples - here is a proof-of-concept adaptive airfoil which does not require any additional mechanical parts:
Here is a proof of concept demonstration of ‘programmable wood’: