The Nobel Textiles Exhibition was presented at the ICA, London for the London Design Festival 2008.
Metabolic Media for Nobel Textiles
London Design Festival 2008
Presented at the ICA and Saint James' Park
14-21 September 2008
Free catalogue available
for Metabolic Media
Design Science collaboration
"What do you get when you pair a scientific researcher with a textile designer? Designers fundamentally shape the way we live, while scientists pervade the very fabric of our lives. Nobel textiles involves a journey into the interface between science and design, a dialogue between leading researchers in both fields."
As a research fellow at Central Saint Martins College Rachel liaised with a Nobel prize-winning scientist to develop textiles based on scientific discovery.
Rachel Wingfield meets John E. Walker
FABRICS OF LIFE - Nobel Textiles
Nobel Textiles is a collaboration between Nobel-winning scientists and research fellows from the University of the Arts London, Central Saint Martins College to create fabrics inspired by the discoveries of the Nobel Laureates.
Biomimetic architecture modeled on molecular structures and metabolism in living cells.
Nobel Textiles is a collaboration between Nobel-winning scientists and designers to create textiles inspired by the discoveries of the Nobel Laureates. Loop.pH has been paired with Sir John E. Walker and the following text discusses the journey and discoveries of this unique collaboration.
Rachel Wingfield and Mathias Gmachl have been responding to the work of Sir John E. Walker, who has been instrumental in improving our understanding of biological energy conversion in living cells. Awarded a Nobel Prize in 1997 for his work describing how enzymes make ATP (adenosine triphosphate), he has outlined one of the most important biological systems known to man. Every day we convert around one-half our body weight in ATP. The constant cycling of this molecule drives everything from decomposition to muscle contraction in anything from bacteria to crocodiles. We share John's interest in the workings of this incredible molecular machine with its rotary motor that spins at 50-100 times every second within our cells.
For the past two years we have investigated the qualities of ENERGY - in a very broad context - using design to address some of the serious issues we face today from our dependance on cheap energy to human nutrition and global food shortages. Our proposals include lightweight solutions for Urban Agriculture to creating adaptive ﬂexible architecture based on molecular biology, coupled with energy harvesting canopies and membranes inspired by photosynthesis. Our design process has reﬂected a ʻmetabolic thinkingʼ where waste is food in an ever cycling and emergent system.
The meeting of Science and Design is imperative and it can happen in our kitchens. The objective is to allow more people to participate in using scientiﬁc methodologies in an ecological way to improve their local environment. From the outset, this project has been about using design to open up the process of discovery, sharing the ﬁeld of science with the general public - from running workshops to performances and installations.
Our studioʼs woven and modular architectural structures provide a lightweight solution for growing food plants in small spaces without soil. Weʼve married this with current research on organic and dye-sensitized solar cells, which can be made at home with berries picked from your garden. The urban ecosystem, Metabolic Media, comprises of geotextile structures and solar cells designed to charge the batteries of a fueling pump system that feeds and monitors the network of plants by misting the roots with nutrient rich solution.
Autonomous membranes powered by the sun
One of the exciting developments of this project has been the outcome of a collaboration with Risø DTU, the National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy in Denmark. We have been working with printed, organic solar cells based on the work by Dr. Frederik Krebs, Senior researcher and Torben Damgaard Nielsen, Innovation pilot.
Large tensile surfaces and building facades could be used to harness the suns energy and turn it into electrical energy using ﬂexible printed photovoltaics (solar cells).
A modular photovoltaic membrane was prototyped for the installation that can be clad to our synetic textile architecture to provide both shelter and shade from the sun during the day and once evening falls light is cast into the darkness using low-power micro LEDs with printed circuitry. We will be developing this over the next 12 months as a low cost, high volume source of light for emergency shelter relief - where light and electricity are not provided for.
More information on the organic solar cells can be found here http://www.risoe.dk/solarcells
Energy and everything by Sir John E Walker
Have you ever wondered where energy comes from? Consider for a moment that the energy from the food you eat is propelling billions of biological motors inside your body. In the time it has taken you to read this sentence, each motor has spun around several hundred times. That’s hundreds of billions of rotations. This process is ultimately driven by the energy originating from the Sun.
As these motors harness energy derived from the Sun, they drive one of the most important biological processes on the planet: the synthesis of ATP. The cycling of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) sustains all living organisms, from crocodiles to bacteria. These biological insights come from Sir John E. Walker, who has spent his life studying energy conversion in the biological world. He won the Nobel prize for Chemistry in 1997 for his work on ATP synthesis.
When John discovered that the enzyme that makes ATP (ATP synthase) employs a mechanical rotary motor mechanism, the science world was taken by storm. “People were really surprised that an enzyme could work using a mechanical mechanism like this. Our model was based on still photographs at atomic resolution. When we looked at these images, we felt the enzyme could only work using a rotary mechanism, but this was not accepted by everyone.
Then some Japanese colleagues came along and did an experiment that visualised the rotation of this molecular machine under a microscope. They took a filament of skeletal muscle from a mouse and attached it to the rotary shaft of ATP synthase. Then they looked down the microscope and saw the filament turning around. That was one of the first pieces of evidence to support John's proposal.
So where do we get energy from? The Sun traps energy by photosynthesis, which yields high-energy compounds: carbohydrates, fats and food proteins, which we derive from crop plants and animals. But how do we release the energy? Inside every cell, except for red blood cells, are these mini organs called mitochondria, where the steps for energy conversion take place with molecular motors at the helm. At the heart of this complex series of process lies some very simple chemistry: the chemical energy from food is used to transfer hydrogen ions. Hydrogen ions are moved across the mitochondrial inner
membrane building up like water in a hydroelectric dam. As stored water has potential energy and generates electricity as it flows through turbines, stored hydrogen ions drive other biological jobs. The entrapment of energy from light is similar.
Energy can be used to generate heat, for example, allowing a hibernating animal to keep itself warm in winter by burning off fat and converting it directly into heat. A series of complex proteins inside mitochondria take the energy from sugars and break them down into simpler molecules. Almost all the oxygen we breathe in is consumed by this controlled burning of carbohydrate and fats. Instead of generating heat, the energy is used to move hydrogen ions across the membrane, producing carbon dioxide and water.
Peter Mitchell worked out the general principle of how energy is stored by using energy from food to transfer hydrogen ions across membranes. For his efforts he was awarded the 1978 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. My efforts provided a molecular mechanism for carrying out the final crucial step of making ATP.”
We also ran a public one-day workshop at the ICA, London.
Solar Jam Workshop
@ The ICA, London
15th September 2008
We questioned how we can turn our kitchens, homes and cities into community labs of researchers and non-experts sharing knowledge and experience. More info here Solar Jam Workshop
We have many images that document the project that can be found here on Flickr:
Nobel Textiles is jointly funded by the MRC and Epigenome NoE and based at Central Saint Martins, London