Royal College of Art design student Chao Chen has developed a revolutionary new building material that responds to the presence of water. After observing the hydro-sensitive behavior of pine cones, which open and close depending upon their exposure to water, Chen has developed a wood laminate material that similarly bends and flexes in response to atmospheric humidity, soil moisture or rain. Each pine cone has two layers. When it gets wet, the outer layer elongates more than the inner layer and closes in on itself.” This led to the development of the laminate product, which features sandwiched layers of fabric, thin film and wood veneer. The veneer absorbs water, expands across the grain and curves or flattens depending on the production technique.
Applications for the technology include shelters that seal up when it rains and building cladding that opens to let in more light on a dull, drizzly day but closes to block out heat when the weather is hot and dry.