the making of science

Barbara Kiser in Nature:

Fungal-Futures-0-∏Maurizio-Montalti-Officina-Corpuscoli-2016_-use-this-oneThe nature of materials is being rethought. Bio-materials such as fungal webs (mycelium) can be used to ‘grow’ bricks, pots and even dresses on wood-chip, clay or textile frames. Amsterdam-based ecodesigner Maurizio Montalti of Officina Corpuscoli described how, after working with University of Utrecht microbiologists on scaling up these fungal creations, his studio began to look more like a lab. University College London materials scientist Mark Miodownik invoked a future devoid of roadworks if self-healing asphalt becomes reality. The Anthropocene offers new geologically inspired materials. ‘Fordite’, or ‘detroit agate’, is made from fine layers of hardened car paint and can be cut and polished like semi-precious stone. We may one day dig up deposits of ‘bone marble’, retrieved from the metamorphosed skeletons of culled farm animals. The fashion industry is the second most polluting in the world, but sportswear company Adidas is scooping waste plastics out of the ocean to make its knitted footwear.

Crafts people are sensitive to people’s emotional responses to materials and objects. Yet few designers are included in research teams examining interactions between robots and humans, for example. Caroline Yan Zheng from London’s Royal College of Art is using soft robotics to make wall panels and accessories that swell or reshape in response to facial emotions. People tell her they find them comforting; one day they might be used to promote calm in hospitals. Surgery is a craft – you don’t want your operation done by someone who has only read a book. Richard Arm from Nottingham Trent University brought in gorily realistic models of parts of the thoracic cavity that he has been making in silicone for surgeons to train on – complete with slimy finish, spurting arteries and the slash across the chest for you to dig your hand into. But introducing design innovations into the healthcare sector is difficult, Jeremy Myerson from the Royal College of Art noted; the sector is risk averse. His redesigned ambulance interior reduces the time it takes for paramedics to treat a patient’s wounds, by giving them better access to the patient and equipment. Yet, despite running it through ‘clinical trials’ successfully, it has yet to be taken up.

More here.