Our founder Catarina Mota @ TEDGlobal 2012


To be equipped for the future, you need to know smart materials’:
Catarina Mota at TEDGlobal 2012


Catarina Mota at TEDGlobal 2012

Cata­rina Mota has many friends. One of her friend’s fathers, when her friend was a kid, built a vehi­cle out of a bicy­cle and wash­ing machine, because the fam­ily couldn’t afford a car. Cul­tur­ally, we used to know how to make and fix every­thing. As the 20th cen­tury pro­gressed, we lost that abil­ity, but thanks to the maker com­mu­nity, we are slowly get­ting it back. By fos­ter­ing the devel­op­ment and inven­tion of new smart mate­ri­als, Cata­rina hopes to help mak­ers reach the next level.

What are smart mate­ri­als? Fun­da­men­tally, they’re mate­ri­als we are already incred­i­bly famil­iar with like paint, paper and plas­tic. The trick is, all of these mate­ri­als now come with a twist. Paint and ink, for exam­ple, can now con­duct elec­tric­ity such that peo­ple are able to paint cir­cuits with a brush or, with the addi­tion of a mag­net, make a speaker out of a sheet of paper. Acrylic, a type of plas­tic, can now be infused with light dif­fus­ing par­ti­cles so light can reflect through its entire sur­face instead of just the edges. What this means prac­ti­cally is, by flip­ping a light switch, you can turn your win­dows from see-through to opaque. Ther­mochromic pig­ments can be added to plas­tics so you can see when your baby’s bot­tle is hot. Pos­si­bil­i­ties are becom­ing end­less.

How­ever, in order to har­ness the full poten­tial of these mate­ri­als, Cata­rina believes that we need to have a deeper under­stand­ing of the com­po­nents that are mak­ing up our world. We need to have a deeper under­stand­ing because when we do, we are able to shape the objects we use instead of those objects shap­ing use. Beyond being savvy con­sumers, by delv­ing into tin­ker­ing, we open the doors to inno­va­tion. From moun­tain bikes to air­planes, semi-con­duc­tors to com­put­ers, his­tory has repeat­edly shown that it’s been the ama­teurs who have been the sig­nif­i­cant inven­tors and improvers of the world.

To bol­ster the tin­ker­ers’ abil­ity to cre­ate, Cata­rina co-founded openmaterials.org, a web­site where peo­ple pub­lish infor­ma­tion and aggre­gate research, papers, and tuto­ri­als by other mak­ers. Her over­all mes­sage is sim­ple: draw from the exper­i­ments of the crowd and under­stand smart mate­ri­als. Like learn­ing about com­put­ers in the 1970s, the best way to ensure we have a say in our future is to acquire pre-emp­tive knowl­edge of emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies now.

Catarina Mota at TEDGlobal 2012

Pho­tos by James Dun­can David­son

VIA [TED Blog]