Bio-Augmented Materiality. Towards the Next Biomimicry

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Conference Proceedings
Authors: Carmen Rotondi

Abstract: In the "century of biotechnology", a new form of "bio-digital industry" is emerging in which, thanks to increasingly sophisticated, digitized, nano and biosynthetic technologies, it becomes possible to analyze and reproduce the generative, chemical, physical and molecular processes underlying natural mechanisms [1]. Furthermore, contemporary biosciences are increasingly abandoning a predominantly descriptive character, transforming themselves into quantitative or engineering disciplines, developing tools (hardware and software), interests, and working ways that bring the scientific field closer to the design one as never before [2]. Therefore, new scenarios and opportunities for innovation open up to design, given by new technologies and new experimental domains of convergence with contemporary biosciences. Opportunities that translate into new hybrid concretizations, placed in the space between the synthetic and biological dimensions and that – exploiting the chance to confer objects, buildings and cities the characteristics and functionality of the living – aim to design a more sustainable future from an environmental and ecological, but also ethical, social and cultural points of view.Starting from this context and supported by theoretical background and related examples, the proposed paper joins the debate on emerging material revolution – that extends computational and biological principles to matter itself, becoming intrinsically sensitive, active, programmable [3] – and aims to explain how the informed relations between digital, physical and natural worlds are today changing the design practice, as well as the sustainability paradigm. In particular, the new concept of "Bio-Augmented Materiality" is presented, which refers to future products no longer made of parts with distinct functions but as "material systems" in which material-product-performance are designed as a single entity through information, growth and adaptation to the context.On the one hand, besides objects equipped with artificial intelligence, materials themselves may be informed and rewritten by computational facilities (e.g. cognitive computing, next-generation computer visualization) and digital procedures (e.g. digital fabrication techniques, digital material representations, algorithmic form-generation methods), resulting in hybrid, mono-material but heterogeneous system able to react, adapt and elaborate data as natural ones [4]. The connection between digital and physical (material) spheres results in aesthetically and functionally augmented materials, which living and intelligent qualities are given by the intrinsic properties of the matter itself.On the other hand, developments in scientific disciplines as molecular biology, genetics or synthetic biology extend the properties of the digital world to nature, which becomes understandable to the last detail, programmable and manipulable. This lead to the future possibility to use biological matter and organisms as interactive interfaces (bio-sensors and bio-actuators) instead of synthetic ones. At the same time, biological and biomechanical processes through which nature functions, can be transferred to products from the material itself (like growth, repair, mutation, replication, biodegradability) and can be inspirational for intelligent behaviours [5]. Thus, the products of the future will be hybrid material systems, customizable and context-specific, able to embody almost all the degrees of freedom of a natural phenomenon, grown rather than assembled, computerized rather than adapted, biological rather than synthetic; radically changing the way they are thought, designed and manufactured. This conceptual mutation is considered a possible opportunity to materialize a new design system inspired by nature in creating products and processes integrated with the environment and facing contemporary complexity. The paper so paves the way to the next biomimicry in which multidisciplinary research strategies and the ability to code and decode life principles are helpful for sustainable scenarios, not simply aimed to reduce the human impact on the ecosystem, rather enhance nature through original forms of cooperation and integration between human, biology and machines.1.Estèvez, A., Navarro, D.: Biomanufacturing the Future: Biodigital Architecture & Genetics. Procedia Manufacturing, 12, 7-16 (2017)2.De Lorenzo, V.: La Biologia Sintetica come nuovo quadro interpretativo dei sistemi vienti. Istituto Lombardo-Rendiconti di Scienze, 148, 167-183 (2014)3.Tibbits, S.: Active Matter. The MIT Press, Cambridge - US (2017)4.Oxman, N.: Towards a Material Ecology. In: Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Conference of the ACADIA, pp. 19-20. ACADIA, New York (2013)5.Lucibello, S., Ferrara, M., Langella, C., Cecchini, C., Carullo, R.: Bio-Smart Materials: the binomial of the future. In: Karwowski, W., Ahram, T. (Eds.) Intelligent Human Systems Integration, pp. 745-750. Springer, Berlin (2018)

Keywords: Bio-Digital Industry, Material Revolution, Nature Intelligence, Sustainability

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe100951

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