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The Alchemic Laboratory: Alive and Regenerative Materials

If the Italian pavilion at the 23rd Triennale is a linear journey through works of XX Century Italian designers, the exhibition at its end pivots around the question of what we now consider “materials” and the concept of “matter” itself, displaying part of the work developed by Ingrid Paoletti and her team at Politecnico di Milano.

Alchemy is the discipline that historically has dealt with profound questions about materials. It is a futuristic Alchemic Laboratory where now the scientific, linear, and predictable processes we assume within the transformation of matter leave room for processes and materials that tend to fade the boundaries between our definition of alive and inanimate, natural and artificial, extracted and grown.

Here, self-healing properties of artificial materials are described, triggering questions about inventions in this field and what is commonly considered inanimate matter. An auto-regenerative concrete block is showcased, where special polymeric materials in the form of fibers or capsules, containing liquids and dispersed in the concrete matrix, imitate the healing of body wounds by the secretion of some kind of material, when cracks occur.

 
 
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Self healing concrete brick
 
 

Then, moss is being used as an example of extraction of renewable energy from vegetation: thanks to the so called biophotovoltaics technology, electrons from the by products of the photosynthesis process are being collected and then used to create a current capable of powering simple electronic devices such as digital displays.

Foto 02 03 Moss wall and moss powered display

 

Finally, self-grown, self-assembled and bio-fabricated materials represent the core of the paradigm between what is considered inert and alive. This is the case of bacterial cellulose based structures and self-growing mycelium, engineered to become building or decorative elements.

Eventually, by turning down our control on the processes, by acknowledging a new culture of conscious material and by understanding natural structures, we might open the door for our imagination, towards the unexpected and the vitality of natur

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Bacterial Cellulose structures as decorative elements

 

Material ConneXion Library contains many materials with these characteristics: from self-healing to self-growing materials and more. Find out the Library


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