ColorFolds: eSkin + Kirigami: From Cell Contractility to Sensing Materials to Adaptive Foldable Architecture

Colorful connected panels hanging from a skylight.

ColorFolds. rendering / Sabin Design Lab

ColorFolds: eSkin + Kirigami: From Cell Contractility to Sensing Materials to Adaptive Foldable Architecture, by Sabin Design Lab and the Department of Architecture, is a product of ongoing, trans-disciplinary research spanning the fields of cell biology, materials science, physics, electrical and systems engineering, and architecture. ColorFolds is one part of eSkin, a larger, NSF-funded project from the Sabin Design Lab, and is featured in the 2014 Cornell Council for the Arts Biennial as part of an investigation. Ultimately the goal of the eSkin project is to explore materiality from nano to macroscales based upon understanding of nonlinear, dynamic human cell behaviors on geometrically defined substrates. Through the eSkin project, insights as to how cells can modify their immediate extracellular matrix (ECM) microenvironment with minimal energy and maximal effect are being investigated and applied to the biomimetic design and engineering of highly aesthetic, passive materials, and sensors and imagers that will be integrated into responsive building skins at the architectural scale. ColorFolds incorporates two parameters that the team is investigating: optical color and transparency change at the human scale based upon principles of structural color at a nano to micro scale.

In addition to these material proprieties, ColorFolds features a lightweight, tessellated array of interactive components that fold and unfold in the presence or absence of people. From architecture to chemistry, from chalkboards to micrographs, and from maps to trompe-l’oeil, we strive to communicate 3D geometry, structures, and features using 2D representations. They have allowed us not only to communicate complex information, but also to create real objects, from the act of folding a paper airplane to the construction and digital fabrication of entire buildings. ColorFolds follows the concept of "Interact Locally, Fold Globally," necessary for deployable and scalable architectures. Using mathematical modeling, architectural elements, design computation, and controlled elastic response, ColorFolds showcases new techniques, algorithms, and processes for the assembly of open, deployable structural elements and architectural surface assemblies. Each face of the tessellated and interactive components features a novel colorful film invented by 3M called Dichroic Film. Not only does this film align with our investigations into structural color, but it also allows for room-scale investigations of these nano to micro material effects and features. An array of sensors detects the presence or absence of people below, which in turn actuates a network of Flexinol® by Dynalloy, Inc. spring systems that open or close the folded components.

Comprised of a field of low cost sensors and passively responsive materials, ColorFolds is conceived to be generic and homogenously structured upon installation (i.e., laden with the full potential) but readily adaptable to local heterogeneous spatiotemporal conditions, thereby reducing the overall functioning demands upon it. This manner of operation not only maximizes immediate performative efficiency, but also allows for ongoing contextual adaptation. In this regard ColorFolds is a "learning" and adaptive skin assembly, a prototype for future applications in the context of adaptive architecture.

The ColorFolds team is comprised of Jenny E. Sabin, principal investigator; Martin Miller, senior personnel and design lead; Daniel Cellucci and Andrew Moorman, mechatronics leads; Giffen Ott, production lead; and Max Vanatta, David Rosenwasser, Jessica Jiang, and Andrew Lucia, senior personnel.

ColorFolds: eSkin + Kirigami: From Cell Contractility to Sensing Materials to Adaptive Foldable Architecture is funded by the National Science Foundation and is part of the CCA’s 2014 Biennial, "Intimate Cosmoslogies: The Aesthetics of Scale in an Age of Nanotechnology."
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