‘Smart Materials’ Open Source

Smart materials are coming into daily use – including fabrics that light up, paints that conduct electricity, pigments that change color in windows and walls, or kitchenware that change color depending on temperature.

Open Materials hub was founded by Catarina Mota and is designed to be “an online open source project that’s intended to become a large, collectively generated database dedicated to the science of materials. Here everyone shares experiments, publishes information, and encourages others to contribute whenever they can, aggregating resources such as research papers and tutorials.”

smart materials paper

Catarina believes that “the maker community and the open-source model are sharing with curiosity and passion, the knowledge about how things work and what they’re made of, down to the composites. They tackle problems from unconventional angles, and in the process discover alternatives or better ways to do things. The more people experiment with materials, the more researchers are willing to share their research, and manufacturers their knowledge. Hence the better chances we have to create technologies that truly serve us all.

Conductive ink can allow to paint circuits instead of using the traditional printed circuit boards or wires. For example a touch sensor can react to skin by turning on a light. It’s been used by artists, and can be used in laser printers and pens.

Sheets of acrylic can be infused with colorless light-diffusing particles. Regular acrylic only diffuses light around the edges, while this illuminates across the entire surface when the lights are turned on around it. Two of the known applications for this material include interior design and multi-touch systems.

Thermochromic pigments can change color at a given temperature. One of the principle applications for this material is in kitchenware and particularly baby bottles, indicating when the contents are cool enough to drink.

You can watch Catarina present more examples of smart materials at this TED conference.

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