Shape-Shifting Carbon Fiber

Researchers at MIT are creating one-piece objects that can change form or function in an intentional, programmable fashion.


(Programmable carbon fiber video)

Tibbits and collaborators, including his colleagues at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Self-Assembly Lab, M.I.T. mathematician Erik Demaine and product designer Christophe Guberan, along with engineers and designers at the materials company Carbitex and the design firm Autodesk revealed shape-changing sheets of wood fiber, textiles, hybrid plastics and carbon fiber. The researchers hope that these new materials show that programmable matter is no longer just a curiosity—it is here and ready for commercial development.

Philip K. Dick fans no doubt are thinking of the shape-shifting machine (the "M") from his 1957 short story The Unreconstructed M. This enigmatic machine can transform itself at will into apparently innocent objects - but it's only waiting to strike.

Beam, holding the cigaret lighter, walked toward the M. A receptor stalk waved toward him and the machine retreated. Its lines wavered, flowed, and then painfully reformed. For an interval, the device struggled with itself; then, reluctantly, the portable t-v unit again became visible.

From Scientific American.

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