By modeling natural systems, the BioLogic team sought to learn from nature and find solutions to problems in the built environment. As part of that group I studied porifera and helotropic plants.
Hydrogels are capable of absorbing up to 100x their volume in water. They are nearly transparent in water (if they are not dyed) as you can see in the animation below. By leveraging their absorptive properties we created dynamic systems with slow but meaningful and predictable actuation.
Early experiments involved creating perforated silicone blocks with hydrogels embedded in their core. Later on we developed processes for creating complex silicone parts with embedded tubes to allow for precise delivery of water to selective regions of our silicone surface.
Our functional prototype was based on the internal structure of porifera and utilized shape memory alloy or SMA wire to achieve actuation. The wire ran through a piece of flexible plastic onto which a series of specially designed fins were attached. The feet on the bottom of each fin allowed us to gain increased mechanical advantage from the movement in the shape memory alloy and create significant deformation in our prototype's outward facing surface.
In this exploration we looked at various forms of direct and indirect actuation of surfaces in an attempt to develop methods which would further magnify the movement we were drawing from the shape memory alloy. I speculated on some of our findings in the napkin sketches below.