Designing With
Emerging Materials

Designing with Emerging Materials, an elective science course, explores the integration of the handmade with innovative materials and technologies. Students research biomaterials, biopigments, nanomaterials, and other advanced materials, then envision and prototype sustainable solutions to real-world challenges.

Two professors teach the class simultaneously, with the science behind the designs supporting the creative element and the creativity enlivening the science. Some examples of the materials and applications include:

  • Using pH sensitive biopigments (dyes) in print designs that change color in response to different forms of chemical pollution.
  • A shape memory alloy fiber that wrinkles in the presence of carbon monoxide to create a new pattern on a fabric surface.
  • Light-responsive materials such as smart windows and window coverings using shape memory or electrochromic materials that open, close or dim the windows or shades in response to sunlight, thereby optimizing heating and cooling efficiency. The electrochromic materials and coatings can be applied in the form of a decorative–and functional–pattern.
  • A photoresponsive window blind with conductive fibers that store energy during the day and release it at night to provide power and light.
  • Conductive filaments/optoelectronic materials: these flexible nanomaterials (graphene and super-aligned carbon nanotubes) are capable of radio frequency (RF) energy harvesting, the conversion of ambient RF electromagnetic radiation to electricity. Using nanostructured carbon inks, students can integrate energy harvesting into a print design.

Students will learn how to hand-knit, screen print, prepare art for screens, weave on a loom, hand-embroider, stitch, and use digital embroidery machines. They will design a circuit and embroider it on a digital embroidery machine.

At the end of the course, they will pitch their final project, including an interdisciplinary discussion of the problem and the integrative solution the students came up with.

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