SENTIENT MATERIALS

From plastics that bleed and self-heal to the world’s lightest solid, these substances represent some of the most exciting and groundbreaking research in materials science. These smart materials can communicate, remember shapes and respond to a host of external stimuli—including temperature, stress, moisture, electric or magnetic fields.

Exhibits

Ferro Fluid [2011]

Material Study, 2006. Paint and ferrofluid filmed live on HD Video. Perry Hall, US.
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Materials

AEROGEL

The world’s lightest solid, created from a gel where the liquid component is replaced with a gas. A good thermal insulator that is used by NASA to collect stardust.

HAND-MOLDABLE PLASTIC

A polycaprolactone thermoplastic that has a comparatively low melting point of 60°C and can be melted and reformed into a new shape many times.

HYDROGEL

A network of flexible polymer chains that are hydrophilic and can hold up to 500 times their own weight in water.

SHAPE-RETAINING PLASTIC

A polyethylene plastic that bends like a metal, but holds its shape unless you bend it back.

SELF-HEALING PAINTS

A polyrotaxane-based paint that enables small grazes to heal within an hour and deeper cuts to heal in up to a week.

SHAPE MEMORY METALS AND POLYMERS

Metals and polymers that deform at one temperature and recover their original undeformed shape upon heating.

FERROFLUID

A liquid that becomes strongly magnetised in the presence of a magnetic field.

AUTO-HEALING POLYMERS

A silicon polymer sheet that when cut, forms new bonds and and can weld itself back together.

SELF-HEALING PLASTICS

Plastics that bleed red when damaged and heal themselves when light or heat is applied.

Experiments

Shape Memory Polymer

[video and samples] Nick Puckett, AltN, Canada.

Ferrofluids

Éilis Mc Grath, CRANN, TCD, Ireland.

Cornstarch Vibration

Louise Bradley, CRANN, TCD, Ireland.

Light Sensitive Polymers

Silvia Giordani, Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices [CRANN], Trinity College Dublin [TCD], Ireland.

Shape Memory Alloys

[Film and samples] Armin Lau & David Kiel, AVALON FP7 Research Consortium, Aarhus University, Denmark.

“Inspired by Sentient Materials, Morph is the leader of the group. His self-healing suit makes him resistant to anything his enemies can throw at him. He is the classic clean-cut good guy and the moral centre of the team.” — Stephen Byrne