Biointelligent Membranes : It’s The End of the World As We Know It

What will the world be like in 2100 and what kind of materials will we be wearing? Cathrine Disney speculates on a material future in a world dramatically impacted by climate change with these Biointelligent Membranes.

This textiles project finds us in the year 2100, in a world where the effects of climate change caused by the unrestricted burning of fossil fuels has lead to extremes of temperature ranging from a low of -93.2°C to a high of 70.7°C. As a result, the types of clothing we wear today are no longer an appropriate way of protecting our bodies from the harsh environment around us. In the place of jeans and jackets, environmentally responsive and smart biosynthetic membranes have emerged as a new synthetic form of clothing.

These biosynthetic membranes contain genetically modified organisms that respond to the environment to protect the wearer. In this video, Cathrine Disney explains that as temperatures begin to drop, the membrane forms a second layer of insulating fibres that stick together to protect the weather. In more extreme cold, the membrane creates a second layer of fibres that are longer in length and hollow, allowing air to be warmed by the sun and sent to the skin. These fibres are also oily, protecting the skin from water. When conditions warm back up, the membrane begins to melt, protecting the wearer from overheating.

When temperatures begin to dramatically increase, the membrane from an opaque layer on the skin that blocks the sun’s harmful rays and deflects heat away from the wearer. In order to keep the wearer cool and protect against sunstroke, the membrane self-lubricates, providing the wearer continual hydration. At extreme temperatures, the membrane opens up, allowing the body to cool and breath. And when temperatures begin to fall back to a normal level, the membrane sheds its outer layer, returning to its original state.

Based on the principles of Synthetic Biology, Biointelligent Membranes were developed together with Dr. Darren Nesbeth, UCL.