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July 7, 2015 AT 3:00 am

Ingenious Building Material That Shapeshifts In Response To Rain #Biomimicry

Water-Reacting Architectural Surface from Chao Chen on Vimeo.

Student creates a material that opens in the sun and closes in the rain. via fastcocodesign

When Chao Chen had to conduct a materials study during his second term at the Royal College of Art, he found inspiration while walking through London’s Hyde Park on a rainy day. Picking up a pine cone, he noticed that it reacted to water by closing its outer shell. Now, he has developed a building material, based on the pine cone’s anatomy, that can shapeshift in response to weather.

Chen knew that pine cones open and close as a survival mechanism to protect and release their seeds, but what interested him was how. So that day, in Hyde Park, he grabbed a few pine cones, took them home, and sliced them in half. “Each pine cone has two layers,” Chen says in a phone interview. “When it gets wet, the outer layer elongates more than the inner layer and closes in on itself. As a designer, this was very important for me.”

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