No Assembly (Or Hardware) Required

Researcher Lining Yao programs biological materials to act like robots and brings them to life on stage.

What if a box of IKEA furniture could save you the time and effort and put itself together? What if clothing could respond to human skin conditions to keep you cool, or even safe? It’s all within the realm of possibility with “adaptive materials.” Lining Yao, director of Carnegie Mellon’s Morphing Matter Lab joins Ira as she brings transformative fabric, self-folding furniture, even flat pasta, to life on stage at the Carnegie Library of Homestead, Pennsylvania.

See some of her materials in action.

Pine cone unfolding
Many of the materials Yao has developed are inspired by nature, including this unfurling pine cone. Video courtesy the Morphing Matter Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, GIF by Brandon Echter

[Forget small talk! These bots make good conversation.]

Chair assembling itself.
By dunking this flat sheet into water, Yao is able to create an (almost) self-assembling chair. The only part that does not assemble itself are the legs. Video courtesy the Morphing Matter Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, GIF by Brandon Echter.
Morphing pasta
Morphing pasta. Video courtesy the Morphing Matter Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, GIF by Brandon Echter.

[Imagine a museum that could fit almost anywhere.]

Smart fabric unfolding
This piece of fabric can keep track of how much the wearer is sweating, and then “open” to cool them down. Video courtesy Biologic, GIF by Brandon Echter.

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About Katie Hiler

Katie Hiler is an assistant producer for Science Friday and the proud mother of two cats, Charleigh and Sadie.

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