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]