Assembling complex structures—a task that once fell to graduate students with high precision tweezers—is being revolutionized by researchers in the emerging field of self-assembly and programmable materials. The “Active Matter Summit” showcased and helped define this new area of materials research, while building a strong community that will collectively explore challenges, applications and future scenarios in this domain.
In recent decades, developments in software and hardware technologies have created dramatic shifts in design, manufacturing and research. This influx of new capabilities to design, compute and fabricate like never before, has sparked a renewed interest in material performance. We are now witnessing significant advances in active matter, 3D/4D Printing, materials science, synthetic biology, DNA nanotechnology and soft robotics, which have led to the convergence of software, hardware and material technologies and the growing field of programmable materials.
“Active Matter Summit” organizer, Skylar Tibbits, MIT Research Scientist and Director, Self-Assembly Lab, invents self-assembly and programmable material technologies aimed at reimagining the processes of construction, manufacturing and adaptability in the built environment. His design course, sponsored by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST), fuses materials science, art and design with this field of self-generating and programmable materials.
“Active Matter,” a two-day symposium held in conjunction with Tibbits’s studio course, convened leading researchers in materials science, art & design, engineering, synthetic biology and soft-robotics, along with leaders from government, public institutions and industry, to demonstrate new perspectives for computation, transformation and dynamic material applications. Among the many and varied topics discussed were 3-d printing chitin, creating self-folding micro-scale robo-bees, programming bacteria to detect liver cancer and designing resorbable electronics from silk proteins that will dissolve or biodegrade into the surrounding environment in a benign way.
In Tibbits’s view, the software and hardware revolutions have blossomed into a materials revolution: “If today we program computers and machines, tomorrow we will program matter itself.”
The “Active Matter Summit” took place on April 24-25, 2015 at MIT.