Aguahoja—Programmable water-based biocomposites for digital design and fabrication

By Filip Visnjic

Created by the team at the Mediated Matter Group at MIT Media Lab, Aguahoja I is project/installation that is digitally designed and robotically manufactured out of the most abundant materials on our planet—the very materials found in trees, insect exoskeletons, apples and bones. Cellulose, chitosan, pectin and calcium carbonate are combined and compounded with high spatial resolution over material tunability producing biodegradable composites with mechanical, chemical and optical functional properties across length scales ranging from millimeters to meters. These water shaped skin-like structures (‘hojas’) are designed and manufactured as if they were grown: no assembly is required.

Standing five meters tall, the Aguahoja I pavilion is composed of biocomposites constructed with varying degrees of stiffness, flexibility and opacity acting as façade or ‘structural skin’ manufactured without components the surface area of which is limited only by the robotic gantry—a continuous construction modeled after human skin—with regions that serve as structure, window, and environmental filter. At the end of its life cycle, when no longer useful, the structure can be programmed to degrade in water (e.g. the rain!), thereby restoring its constituent building blocks to their natural ecosystem, augmenting the natural resource cycles that enabled its creation. This level of ‘environmental programming’ can in the future enable the construction of structures that modify their properties relative to the season: even small alterations to the molecular composition of biocomposites can have a dramatic impact on their design and their decay.

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