Play with smart materials

Play with smart materials

Ink that conducts electricity; a window that turns from clear to opaque at the flip of a switch; a jelly that makes music. All this stuff exists, and Catarina Mota says: It’s time to play with it. Mota leads us on a tour of surprising and cool new materials, and suggests that the way we’ll figure out what they’re good for is to experiment, tinker and have fun.


A TEDGlobal Fellow, Catarina Mota plays with “smart materials” — like shape-memory alloys and piezoelectric structures that react to voltage — and encourages others to do so too.

Why you should listen

A maker of things and open-source advocate, Catarina Mota is co-founder of, a collaborative project dedicated to do-it-yourself experimentation with smart materials. This is a new class of materials that change in response to stimuli: conductive ink, shape-memory plastics, etc. Her goal is to encourage the making of things; to that end, she teaches hands-on workshops on high-tech materials and simple circuitry for both young people and adults–with a side benefit of encouraging interest in science, technology and knowledge-sharing. She’s working on her PhD researching the social impact of open and collaborative practices for the development of technologies. In other words: Do we make better stuff when we work together? She is also a co-founder of Lisbon’s hackerspace altLab.

What others say

“Probably the most disruptive element of this technology is not the tools themselves, but the maker culture—the community of people who sell, use, and adapt the tools of digital fabrication.” — from “R&D: A Strategist’s Guide to Digital Fabrication”



August 12, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , , , ,

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