Project BlackBox is addressing the issue of responsiveness at the building scale by creating smart surfaces that actuate without the use of electricity. The systems and behaviors are designed at a chemical level as smart materials that actuate in response to a specific temperature. To achieve this, fundamental shifts were made in the relationship between material scientists and designers, creating an environment of design and prototyping within an engineering laboratory.
Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary
Nick Puckett / AltN Research + Design
Development Team: Anton Bakerjian, Ian McHone
Partner: BioActive Devices Laboratory at the University of Kentucky
Images: Michael Haas
Initial tests showed that shape-memory polymer could be manipulated by standard equipment such as laser cutters and sign cutters, but the lab was only equipped to produce small material samples. Due to the lack of commercially available equipment, we designed and produced a new device for the lab that produces responsive polymer sheets large enough for prototyping. Turning the lab into a small production facility created a collaborative design environment with a very short feedback loop between the formulation of material and testing of prototypes. It also allowed us to develop the chemical ratios that program the material behavior as a part of our overall design process.