Diary of research during Fellowship at Cambridge University, UK, 2003-2004.


West Cambridge
Eugene Terentjev, James Leach, Simon Biggs


Discussed EPSRC fund for scientists in art schools, mirroring ACE/AHRB program. Eugene ironically inquired "why would a scientist want to work in an art school?"

Discussed how class and culture effect nature of research and education and how regional differences effect research cultures. Noted that education is still an aspirational process, especially in the UK. How in Europe study is more specialised from early on than in Anglo-Saxon countries. Law of conservation (applied to happiness).

Discussion focused on Fellowship:

Talked about long term architectural aspirations for the Fellowship research. Outlined how what is now modest in expectations is heading towards larger projects with larger budgets which might have more of an impact on the infrastructure for research.

Eugene outlined work with Italian clothing designers focused on new textiles with deformable properties. They are part of an FP6 project with 50 partners but this particular project was more concise and did lead to a demonstrable output (with some success, but a bit of a failure). The textiles functioned to boost muscular function and were tested on a Tour de France rider. Ended up rather inelegant. Found elastomers were breaking up due to a lack of engineering but the principle was shown. The FP6 project submission failed, thus contributing to Eugene's funding problems. However, due to this project, Eugene has a much bigger centrifuge now.

Good news:

Heat need no longer be the trigger for the elastomers. Discussed light actuation, previously UV based. Doping the elastomer with a dye results in photoisomeritisation and absorption of a particular part of the wavelength. Illuminated with a particular colour which functions to reduce order of the liquid crystal structure, thus achieving the same effect as heating the elastomer. Illuminating from one side causes imbalance in elastomer causing the material to react almost instantly (milli-seconds). This is a major step forward in the speed at which material can respond to stimuli and critical to the research as envisaged in the Fellowship.

New approach leads to beautiful colours (quote Eugene). Employing a polarizing filter to remove other planes of polarisation is also proving successful. Switching the polarisation of the light causes consequent changes in the elastomer. Light source needs to be intense but not necessarily focused. Also, the larger an elastomer the more force it can have, although the harder it is to control.

A paper was published on this technique in Nature Sept 2003 (T. Ikeda)

Also looking at using carbon nano-tubes to work with electrical stimulation

Eugene suggests mounting mirrors on elastomers to bounce light around and off the reactive surfaces.

James: asks Eugene about patents and military applications. Concerned that licensing and patent IP works against research and open knowledge.

James advises we follow Eugene's suggestions more to allow him "into" our processes, if we wish a reciprocal relationship. This is good advice.

Francois Penz, Simon, Joanna Walker

Architecture is being cut. Dropping PG Diploma to focus resources on research (PhD's) to lift from a 4 RAE to a 5. Have till 2008 to do this or face closure. Has a lot of work to do with 11 Mphil students (of which 2 or 3 will transfer).

Francois would like me to do a seminar January or February for the research students. Previous ideas of a collaborative project with students in West Cambridge unlikely due to cuts. Longer term could consider doing a student workshop where the students have to model an interactive architecture of the future. I am open to this.

I explain to Francois the architectural aspirations of research and state that it would be good to keep all doors open at this point so that we are in a position to exploit collaborative potential as required.

Joanna Walker (PhD completing Jan 2005) going to IAMIS Japan to work with Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignoneau till end March (artists working with interactive media in Japan). Using Isadora or BigEye for interaction with current projection work.

At Deakin University, Australia, Mark Bury, a French artist, is developing technology to make deformable architectural structures. Has been accepted as a short listed project for the Junction redevelopment. Technology involved known as Aegis Hypo surface, Mark Goulthorpe Decoi Architects. This is a motorised surface and is thus distant to our objectives which is to develop an architecturally scaled material that is self-deforming (no motors, computers or electrical systems required)

James, Simon

Discussed cultures of data and networks, such as NGO's sharing data and establishing connections, Berner-Lees notion of the semantic web.

What can be a cultural-analysis of a phenomena, such as a network, which is less a thing and more a phenomena? Is there a metaphysic built into a technology, an ontology?

Most human interaction leads to affirmation of presumptions rather than the generation of really new experience or knowledge.

When is an interest group a culture. James does not like the word culture. It’s a totalising term. It has boundaries. It has to exist somewhere, so this establishes straight away a cognitive view of reality. Culture is only really useful as a shorthand for signifying difference.

Talked about Fellowship expectations, that I am still interested in basic concepts and process rather than determining the project through establishing a clearly defined project outcome. That is, want to let the collaborative process and the development of new materials take the lead and then let this determine the output.


King's College
James, Simon

Discussion focused on content for a possible slim book to be published by Sheffield Hallam University.

The question of value. Do technologists and physical scientists question value in ways that are similar to the manner in which social scientists or artists do? There is a clear link between contemporary arts practice and the sciences in that both are focused on the value of innovation. How is this manifest?

Is value seen by the technologist as a given outcome of the functionality they produce? That is, if it works then it is of value. The technologist would thus regard functionality as having transparent value. Is this similar to the businessman who sees value where they see profit?

The scientist (and perhaps the artist?) sees value in knowledge production. Value is a given of the process of production. Knowledge is regarded as of value in itself but also as being of value as a resource for the production of more knowledge. Knowledge begets knowledge begets value.

The artist perceives value where there is creativity. Novelty is perceived as being of intrinsic value. This is certainly the case in Western contemporary art and the market it supports, where collectors are constantly pressured to buy the latest art star with the newest and most radical product. Is this related to a social need for change and renewal or the perceived value inscribed in the unique object…or both?

In other cultures and sectors of the arts other values can be seen to be more important…values such as tradition, technical skill, artisinal identity or playing in a supporting role for other value systems (eg: art in the service of religion, politics or business). Is this also the case in the sciences? What would be a parallel example in the sciences?

Is innovation enough for the inscription of value in science? No. If this were the case then even random change, change for its own sake, would be perceived as being of intrinsic value, which is clearly not the case. Innovation in itself is also not enough in art…there are other criteria apparently employed to ascribe value.

However, in regard of both situations, society is asking questions about the value of scientific knowledge, artistic responsibility and the value of functionality as they relate to social needs.

It is clear that science and society can come into conflict. Recent and contemporary arguments over Genetically Modified Organisms or nuclear energy are examples here. Both of these areas of technological development are applications of knowledge and it has often been argued that ethical problems only arise at the point of application, not in research or invention. However, it is clear that certain research methodologies rely on techniques that are in our society often questioned. This is the case in both of the examples given here, and also in the case of experiments on animals and, indeed, in the case of the UK's development of Nuclear deterrent, on humans.

On the other hand, there are examples of artists who have come into conflict with society, where the work and/or their methods and procedures have been regarded as an affront to ethical, moral or political norms. The impact of Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses is a clear example here, where the novel was regarded as a direct attack on the fundamentals of Islam. The work of de Sade is a famous example. The ambivalence of Tracey Emin's work has produced rather less acute responses but at least equal consternation in the UK. Thus one artist has been vilified for their work by a particular social group whilst the other has been seen by society at large as characterising the negative aspects of the artistic myth of the dilettante.

Given the above mapping of how artistic practice and scientific inquiry can be seen as not functioning free from social judgement we can ask, how does society perceive value in what scientists and artists are doing and how do they perceive that value differently across disciplines? For example, reflecting on the disciplines of the two authors of this text, how is the work of an artist and that of an anthropologist perceived within broader culture and, in particular, across disciplinary boundaries?

As a visual artist Simon is consciously seeking to deal with fundamental social forces and structures rather than specific issues. James is also doing this as an anthropologist, not through practice but through description and the construction of narratives.

What the artist does is happily subjective. Society has no expectation that the artist will produce anything objective or operate according to an objectively established methodology., They are permitted to be professionally subjective, encouraged to work "from the heart". How is the anthropologist different in this respect, given that they are involved in producing what are in the end more or less subjective narratives?

There is an interesting parallel between what Simon does, looking at how society functions and how to problematise that, and what James does, which is very similar, but via a different strategy. The thing is to tease out how these strategies and methods differ, but within a context where our subject is not the methodologies but the value attendant to them.

An illustrative tale; a recent conference on social anthropology in Manchester was asked to vote on whether anthropology is a generalising science or not a science at all. The consensus was that it was nothing. It is thus problematic to push the scientific status of anthropology too far.

Anthropology should seek to take understanding social relations out of a scientific world view. Hermeneutics…a science of social relations in the sense of an objective observer analysing their subject is untenable. Calling it a science is to undermine its core value. Where the tools and the subject are the same thing…we can only know the social world through entering it, and at that point objectivity is lost as a goal or measure of value. As in analysis the cure is the objective, not the method, thus in Social Anthropology apt description is the source of value. This is a mode of generating knowledge that could have use to others. This implies again that for the Social Anthropologist the value is found in knowledge, as is the case for the scientist, and in this respect Social Anthropology is a science.

The fact that knowledge is being produced and that this can be of use is not the reason for doing Social Anthropology. People have been writing ethnographies for years. The knowledge that comes from that can be turned to other uses, and it is in its use value that knowledge finds its real value. Taking a Marxist approach at this point we now have a model where use value is ascribed to knowledge, and thus we can also seek to see where exchange is invoked in relation to knowledge and thus we can begin to address questions of ownership and authorship of knowledge. It is from here that we can begin an analysis of how society ascribes value in relation to art and science as we have now established the relative use and exchange values that underlie the social ascription of any form of value.

James to ask for paper of Marilyn's (Strathern) called "Externalities".

Essay to be of about 6000-7000 words. Current word count = 1166

Lizzie Muller, Simon

Core of discussion concerns potential public outcomes of the fellowship within its time-span and beyond. Possibility of Junction being involved in public outcomes, such as exhibition or some other presentation such as web stuff…also potential for co-production.

Some sort of interdisciplinary event involving art, technology and architecture could be mounted, timed to relate to some aspect of the schedule for the public art program at the Junction. Francois (Cumis), Stuart Jones? (collaborative artist with Foster and Partners), Eugene and myself, could be involved.

Some discussion of future funding for the research coming out of the NTAF and ACE/AHRB Fellowship program. Longer term funding options might include NESTA's Innovation and Invention fund.

Lizzie to write a public statement on current Fellowship research to go on the Junction website. This will be OK'd by Eugene, Bronac (Ferran), Alan and myself.

Junction public art commission to be announced end October, to break ground February and finish late Summer.

Possibility for myself to be involved in workshops and public presentations in liaison with Junction during the Fellowship period.


Alan Blackwell, James, Simon

General strategy discussion meeting as Alan has just returned from New Zealand after some months absence.


Anthropology Department
James, Simon

Discussions on finalising draft abstract for Transmission book (see abstract).


Computer Laboratory
I gave a presentation about my work to the Rainbow Research Group at the Computer Laboratory. My feeling is that some individuals found value in what I do and they asked some interesting questions. However, I had the distinct feeling that most felt consternation and found it difficult to see the value in what I am doing, either in terms of my intent or my methods.

Computer Laboratory
Alan, Simon

Strategised how to approach the rest of the residency period, and particularly the various unknowns regarding Eugene's involvement and Sergio's (Pellegrino) possible input.

Castle Pub
Alan, Lizzie, Simon

More a social drink than a meeting, although aspects of the Fellowship were discussed. Lizzie announces that she is leaving Cambridge to study in Sydney for a couple of years.


Alan, Eugene, James, Simon

Eugene's funding confirmed for another 12 months. Ali Tajbakhsh (chemist) will continue in post.

Materials response times are being looked at in the immediate future. A student is looking at dyes to establish light absorption and thus effect on material. Investigation finished by April.

Thermal effects are rapid response, but how quickly can you deliver heat to the material.

Discussed substrate's and tensile characteristics, the effects of various materials. Aluminium foil excellent as a good carrier of heat which is not effected by the heat.

Size of polymers now about 25cm x 3 cms in scale with current technology.

Still considering extrusion but this would be a lot of work. Another option is to spin material like nylon fibres into more complex structures.

Alan to talk to Malcolm Maclay about fibre "drawing" techniques and see how they might be applied to Eugene's polymers or enhance their tensile strength.

Eugene's suggestion is that we look at little "domes" (caterpillar walking) rather than the "weave" approach. That we look at thermally responsive materials.

50-60 degrees up for decent motion control. Experiments are happening now. Initial results should be around February.

Using the polymers as actuators in combination with Sergio's technology. Perhaps using reflective Mylar.

A water/sun (cold/hot) activated material, used with a pool of water, activated by the sun, but also interactive with the shadows of people. The surface constantly ripples when the sun is out, but when it is absent, or a shadow falls across the surface, in that area the rippling stops.

Next meet after Christmas, 19.1.03 and then other dates (see diary)

Engineering Lab
Sergio, Alan, James, Simon

Started off briefing Sergio on what has been happening and put overall project into the context of the West Cambridge Site and the potential for public art that is scientifically motivated and related to Cambridge research.

Sergio talked about a toy developed in Boulder Colorado ZomTom(?). Allows you to construct various solids. Thought this could be a good public sculpture opportunity. Might be relevant to a reconvened West Cambridge Public Arts committee.

Eugene's material has its own behaviour, intentionality. Objective is to put this on the outside of the lab, in the public eye, rather than in the lab.

Sergio has done some tests on it. What were the results? Stress at which it will pull 1 Newton - had a 10mm strip tested and got 3 response curves (Mathew Santer, PhD student working on project).

Discussed the idea of making "rope" like structures to create greater tensile qualities. Sergio points out that there are some basic issues here that will limit load. Breaking point and lifting point are about the same. (0.1/sqmm). This causes a major problem.


Eugene, Alan, James, Simon

Discussed Malcolm Maclay's Rheometer for possible analysis of Eugene's materials for potential extrusion and "spinning".

Discussed Mathews work with Sergio using polymers with Nitinol.

How do we bond the polymers to elastic materials? What sort of stretchy glue's might be available? Would a technique involving many points of bonding, to get accordion effect, be useful?

Only difference with the current polymers, when stressed would be opaque vs. transparent rather than colour change. They could be dyed to produce effects and at the moment they have red and blue…could green be possible, thus giving us RGB? Could work towards RGB materials that could be opaque or transparent…working towards a type of dynamic RGB stained "glass".

Change in colour is a function of light scattering, not colour change in the material. This why it is easier to produce an opaque/transparent type of difference.

There is also the cholosteric material which does change colour, not just opacity. We can explore this as well.

Discussion of pumps, valves and oscillating functions. Watery environments, coloured liquids interacting through the valve system. Water computation.

How to attach polymer to rubber? Mathew worked out how to join material. Best to join polymer to itself, like a leather strap around a buckle. You need to minimise the stress laterally where the material wraps over the buckle. Mathew used talc or Vaseline or similar to help with this problem.

Nitinol interesting due to temperature trigger range (40). Also strength. Also its inorganic character contrasted to the organic character of the polymer. This allows you to set up a dual aesthetic where apparently man-made materials (Nitinol springs) and "natural" materials (polymers) can be contrasted with one another. A sort of dynamic cyborg material for making objects or images with.

Bond a thin metal strap to create dimpling effect along two dimensions, as previously discussed. Eugene has given me three samples to try this with. He has also given me a sample to try bonding with elastic (on two sides) to experiment with stretching. Objective is to firstly experiment with bonding techniques, and also to look at the effects produced.

Computer Lab
Alan, James, Simon

We have three strips of polymer for triggering material. We have one piece for stretching (cholosteric).

To prepare the stretch polymer, chill it till not sticky in fridge, separate from the Teflon and allow to warm gradually (10 mins) to room temperature; this resets the material.

Do I need to stretch the material as it is warming? Ask Eugene.

I can then bond this to the elastic frames and then stretch to study its optical characteristics (opaque and transparent).

Need to experiment with glues (SHU people, and/or Mathew, or another expert, such as a company engineer?). Need to use elastic glue able to stretch 2:1. Might be best to only glue in small points, like stitching, to allow an accordion effect when stretching, although a degree of continuity in the bonding is required to ensure strength. Another option might be to "sew" the material. How do they sew lycra?

The other three samples are for making the buckling effect. Need to bond each end of the material to a metal film that can buckle. What material would do this? Spring steel? How thin? Very thin? Or springy plastic?

Try plasticizing paper and cutting it to different lengths to get different effects.

Ask Eugene about the metal he uses? Could I have a sample?

The problem of joining the polymer to the metal. Mathew has this figured, using a buckle like arrangement, with the polymer folded over a tube and joined to itself using silicon glue. You need to minimise the stress laterally where the material wraps over the buckle.


Alan meeting a student of Francois Penz working with Information in architecture, theatre of memory stuff. Michael (Hohl) should meet him (Martyn) and also Mark Ashdown (interactive table). These meetings to be organised for the 23rd of February.


Queens College
Eugene, Alan, James, Simon

Hexane as a solvent for separating the Cholosteric polymer from backing. Just use a small drop. Avoid sunlight.

Agreed it would be better to try experiments at Cavendish. We will do some tomorrow.

Showed elastomers. Eugene considered what the factors might have been in the behaviour. Not sure what problem is. Might be a sample problem. Better to send loop around the silicon tube ring in the opposite way. Cut material to make it easier to bend (scalloped sides). Try again with silicon tubes and with non-blowing heat source. Perhaps break up a cheap toaster and use its element and mirror.

Will Meet 10:30 tomorrow at Cavendish.

Darwin College
Alan, Simon

EPSRC network fund is a possible way forward financially. Currently a project manager at EPSRC interested in creativity but not familiar enough with field. Contact via Bronac. Alan thinks the sort of thing funded will be simplistic, so EPSRC probably not suitable for us.


Cavendish experiments
Eugene, Ali, James, Simon

First test demonstrated elastomer reacting to heat in 90c oven although it broke and thus did not deform polystyrene substrate as hoped for.

Second test of stapled and tube based assembly worked but the elastomer broke prior to stress being transferred to the substrate, possibly due to the solvent in the glue (Evostick) effecting the elastomer.

Decision that in future will try to use a wire clip, like a square circlip, covered in a silicon tube sheath, with the elastomer wrapped around this and fixed to itself . Do this at each end. It is then easy to fix the sheathed wire clip to whatever substrate you wish using staples or similar technique. This is important as 1. It will protect the elastomer from breaking and 2. Make it much easier to make and manipulate the assembly.

Managed to separate cholosteric elastomer. Trick is to use hexane solvent with a pipette to aid in separation. Hexane available from chemical suppliers.


Eugene, Alan, James, Simon


Evostick, failed but probably due to lack of drying time. The other options are Copydex or silicon glue. This is different to the sealant form of silicon. We will try these two as an experiment on Wednesday. We will not try Evostick again.

The silicon glue might take 24 hours to dry.

Eugene questions the coupling design. A metal crimp might work better than current solution.

Simon will go to haberdasher to find a small type of clamp/crimp/buckle thing for use on Wednesday.

The material we are going to bend should be pre-bent, slightly, so as to aid in bending in right direction with minimum friction.

Best to test assembly and gluing technique prior to connecting to the material that is to be bent by the elastomer.

Use oven instead of gun to do tests so as to avoid stress on materials.

Paint glue on so that it has a chevron end to it, pointing out, so as to ensure strongest bond at stress point.

Dates for next meetings (see diary).

Lunch, Darwin College
Alan, Michael, Martyn, Simon

General discussion primarily about Martyn's and Michael's research and issues where there might be shared questions or issues to be addressed.

Alan, Michael, Martyn, Simon

In depth discussion, with examples, of Martyn's work on information architectures and how this might relate to Michael's work on immersive interactive systems and data representation.


Eugene, Ali, Simon

Experiments looking at appropriate glues for bonding elastomers to themselves, and how to do this with a small metal hinge like buckle and how the whole assembly reacts when heated in an oven to around 100c.

Experiment 1: short polymer bonded to itself and around a metal buckle using Copydex glue.

Experiment 2: short polymer bonded to itself and around a metal buckle using Silicon glue. The silicon has to be left to set for some hours.

Ali is to synthesise a new set of elastomers programmed to react at a lower temperature of around 35-40c. These will have about 35% contraction characteristics (as opposed to the 50% we currently have) and will tend to be weaker, which will cause problems. However, 100c is too hot a temperature for any material that is going to be of use for interactive elements in the habitable environment.

Having allowed the Copydex contact adhesive cure for about 60 minutes placed elastomer 1 (Copydex) in oven. It reacted and contracted about 25%. Photographic documentation made. Noted that after a second exposure the Copydex glue began to give up, probably due to it contracting in a different manner to the elastomeric substrate. The elastomer did not break but it did begin to delaminate from where it was glued to itself.

Elastomer 2 (Silicon glue) needs to be left to cure for a couple of more hours prior to exposure to heat.

Alan, Martyn, Simon

Lunch discussion about Michael and Martyn's meeting, which Martyn agreed went very well and was very productive.

Alan, Simon

After-lunch discussion focused on a better hinge/buckle design for the elastomers. Determined that an assembly more like that used in climbing tackle and some bags would be better, where the elastomer can wrap around one or more elements creating a force where the elastomer can not be pulled through the buckle. This might mean we could have an assembly where there is no glue at all.

A further adaptation of this idea would be to make the assembly from Nitenol, which could then be programmed to react inversely to the elastomer but at a similar temperature response window to create a stronger overall assembly.

Experiment 2 more successful than experiment 1, even though the elastomer is much shorter. Contraction is about 40% and there is no visible stress on the glue or that part of the polymer where the glue is applied (see photos). This suggests that the glue is strong and non-reactive with both the elastomer and heat. Further tests trying to break the glue bond shows that the bond is quite strong, even when heated.

Discussion with Ali about the use of Nitinol with the elastomers, particularly in the form I had earlier thought about resembling a children's party whistle, using a Nitinol mono-filament bonded to an elastomer which can operate like the whistle assembly, curling up and straightening out, depending on stimulus.


lunch, West Cambridge
Alan, Simon

Discussed ideas for an array of Nitinol springs allied to an array of elastomers. Extended this to include using elastomers bonded to large sheets of flexible material which are acted upon by they elastomers, creating twists, buckles and domes in the material. Also thought about using other materials as a substrate such as Mylar or silk that can change colour, deepening on angle of light, etc.

Ali, Alan, Simon

Looked at UV and Infra-red light triggered elastomers and other chemicals that respond to visible and invisible light.

Tested the new elastomers Ali made, designed to react at 38 and 42 C successfully.

Carried out experiment using the bag-slide Alan made with an elastomer threaded through it. The slide easily holds the elastomer without recourse to using glue. It is also easier to assemble than using glue. However, when it came to removing the elastomer from the assembly the stress of the elastomer against itself had caused it to stick to itself to the degree that hexane was required to separate the surfaces. In the second experiment the elastomer tore whilst using hexane to delaminate it from itself. This is not necessarily a problem in the longer term, although it isn't particularly useful for experiments as with each one a piece of elastomer is possibly going to be destroyed.

Ali suggests using Teflon coated rods rather than aluminium to make assembly as this will be less likely to stick to the elastomer under stress and thus be less likely to result in shearing and breaking. We did an experiment spraying Alan's assembly with spray on Teflon. This resulted in the elastomer breaking when it adhered to itself. Thus we find that even when the elastomer is joined to itself the stress can be so great that it shears and breaks. Even when joined completely to a silicon rubber substrate it can break, as in one of Eugene's experiments.

Discussed using latex rubber and elastomers together, the elastomers controlling the shape of the rubber. Thought about using a latex cast of a face and using elastomers like muscles to control the expressions on the face.

Ali and I discussed the idea of making a sheet of material manipulated by elastomers. Calculated we would need to make around 10 batches of elastomer, each piece around 20 x 1.5 cms, to create a suitable array of elastomers. This means a total of 20-25 grams which translates into a month fulltime lab work to produce. It would therefore seem better to approach things a little differently such as using elastomers in more sparsely arranged trigger "lines" to create a grid. However, the elastomer has low-conductivity so evenly heating a long elastomer becomes a problem. The up side of low-conduction is that very little heat is transferred from one elastomer to another. Ali mentioned that Sheffield Uni has some sort of near to industrial scale facility for manufacturing polymers like what I want. Need to find out more about this.

Eugene arrived and pointed out that always the problem is that the elastomer delaminates from its substrate as the glue never holds for that many cycles of stimulation. He argues the solution is to ask less of the elastomer.

To do:

Order Nitinol springs. Each unit requires 4. A decent prototype would need an array of 16 such units, thus we would need 48 springs. A couple of spares suggests we order 50, which at £5 each means £250 worth. I have to find out how SHU can invoice Cambridge to gain funds to make purchase through ADRC. Also need to find a supplier of Nitinol springs (Mathew Santer should know this).

I would like to make a larger sample using an elastomer bonded with silicon glue to a silicon(?) rubber substrate (like Eugene's experiments) which can then bend into a dome like shape when stimulated. Beyond that I would like to explore how to join an array of such units to create a larger reactive surface. Perhaps use a large sheet of silicon(?) rubber and then adhere smaller pieces of elastomer to that in an array. It might be useful to score the rubber between the elastomers so as to enhance the integrity of each "unit" area.

Need to find a supplier of rubber samples, whether latex or silicon based.


Eugene, Alan, Simon

Reviewed work to date.

Talked about bag-slide experiments and the problems with tearing and delaminating that occurred. Eugene is not worried about gluing and delaminating. He suggests that when we get past a proof of concept we can make the final prototype so it that will not use glue but rather fabricate it as a cross-linked assembly which will mean the material is homogenous.

Eugene suggests cutting the polymer in a chevron so as to minimise stress at joining point.

Perhaps use a less reactive material (30 rather than 50 %) so as to minimise stress and tearing.

Discussed using a sheet of silicon rubber with an array of polymers on it. Use "hot light beam" or an array of electrodes to create hot points to activate it at different points.

Eugene again says not to worry about delaminating as again we can cross-link between the rubber and the elastomer, both being silicon based.

Discussed the amount of work in involved in making a silicon based array, given Ali's estimate of the work involved (a month of his time). Alan suggested bonding rubber and elastomer in centrifuge, but this would create problems with the stretching and curing of the material.

Eugene suggests to test how one single elastomer will work when fitted to a larger silicon rubber substrate. This will be done as soon as Ali returns.

Also do a test with a pucker/nail type device pushing into a bonded sheet of silicon rubber and elastomer to create a unidirectional stress pattern/memory in the elastomer. This would involve fabricating a bonded rubber/elastomer silicon assembly in the centrifuge. This could be difficult.

Voltage reactive elastomers only work with carbon nano-tubes. These are very experimental and far from any application yet. You can make silicon rubber conductive using carbon in the material.

Place a reactive sheet onto a hot surface and then use a grid of wires to deliver hot-spots in the material and cause localised distortion. This would mean a low differential between the ambient and actuating temperatures, resulting in quicker response times as well as fine control of location of actuation.

Use sound to regulate current to the heat points. This could then be used to make surfaces physically reactive to sound.

Arrange to do a series of experiments on April 13 Tuesday with Ali after his return. Meeting on the 29th deferred until April 19.


Ali, Alan, Simon

Ali feels that it is possible to laminate elastomer to silicon rubber substrate. Has done a test with relevant solvent and found no problematic reaction.

Discussed how to then stretch the material to program it. Particularly focused on non-directional (circular) stretching of the material to give a "pucker" effect to the reaction. If this is possible the objective would be to make an array of such puckered stresses on the material so that the various sections of the material can react independently, creating a "skin" that can dynamically dimple and pucker.

1. make a test to see if the materials will bond.
2. make a prototype single pucker test to see if the non-directional reaction will work.
3. make an array of such things across a larger piece of material to see if a multi-reactive material can be produced.
(See below for alterations to method)

Showed Ali the NiTinol spring assembly. Part of the unit melted when heated, causing burned fingers. The acrylate resealed itself so the prototype is still OK for demo's but no longer pristine or reliable.

Eugene, Ali, Alan, Simon

Showed Eugene the NiTinol spring assembly. Eugene suggests threading an electric element through the NiTinol springs to create localised heating. Thinks it is possible to use this to control a cholosteric elastomer to change its colour as well. Not so sure as to whether this could extend to stimulating an elastomeric polymer due to how localised the heating would be, but this would need to be tested.

Agreed that Ali will make a prototype material with bonded silicon and elastomer to see if that will work. I will come up Thursday 15 at 11:00 to look at the results and determine next steps.

Eugene talked about using unaligned elastomer. When cool its opaque and when heated it is transparent,. This could be integrated into the NiTinol assembly so that an opaque skin becomes transparent when heated and the NiTinol reacts. This could be used to create the effect of an opaque skin. When heated locally the skin will become transparent at that point and the NiTinol spring beneath it, which will be functioning as a conductor of the heat, will be seen to be reacting through the skin. This could have very interesting effects indeed, at least cosmetically.

Ali will make one strip of elastomer bonded to silicon, one half cut off and aligned for the buckle test, the other unaligned for the transparency test. These will be ready Thursday morning.

Eugene is going to find a variable current controlled heating element that can be threaded into the NiTinol spring.


Ali, Alan, Simon

Meeting to look at results of previously agreed experiments. Ali has tried to make a bonded silicon/elastomer test. It failed as the elastomer delaminated from the silicon when the centrifuge stopped turning. He is nevertheless confident he can make a bond using a different PDMS mix (poly di methyl siloxand) employing a differrent solvent. This will likely result in a thinner silicon base and a higher and slower reaction range for the final elastomer.

Ali times the duration of centrifugal reaction by placing a phial of the solvent used into an oven set at the same temperature as the centrifuge and then observes at what point the solvent evaporates. This indicates the time to turn off the centrifuge and remove the material produced. Clever.

Second test results in most of the polymer bonding to the elastomer, but with some bubbling where solvent has evaporated between the two materials. However, after seperating the silicon/polymer laminate from the teflon substrate (using hexane) it seems that the bond is strong and that cross-linking has occurred. It will need to be stressed to see what happens and then heated to see again what will happen before it is clear whether the bond is sufficiently strong and the material appropriately reactive.

A futher test is carried out, stretching the materials produced to see whether the bond can withstand the stresses involved and also to program the polymer as required. A "rack" like stretching mechanism is used, clamping the silicon/polymer laminate at each end and applying appropriate stress. Applied enough stress to lengthen the material by 25-30%. Then placed entire assembly in 75c oven to see response. After 15 minutes the bond seems stable.

Eugene arrives 12:30

He feels that what we are doing will result in a successful technique. We need to stress the material much more, up to 100%, to see if the bond is strong enough to withstand the stress. Increased stress on laminate whilst in oven by another 20-30%, making a total stress of 50% or more to the elastomer. No sign of de-lamination. Decided to leave the material to cure in oven at 75c for 24 hours or so to look at how it has reacted to the dual stresses of heat and stretching.

Eugene seems keen on this experiment for if the bonding of the elastomer to the silicon allows greater strength whilst being elastic it will allow much higher ratio's of stress to be applied to the elastomer with the result that the degree of deformation in the elastomer when stimulated will be far greater. Till now stress could not really go above 50% but using the silicon laminating technique this could be increased to 100% or more.

So we effectively have three test strips. One stressed at room temperature. It seems strong, bubbles have appeared and these have burst, a little like blisters. It is uncertain whether this means the bond is too weak to be useful. The second is stressed at 75-85c and seems uniform and good. The third is not stressed and is being left to cure at 75-85c. No visible changes are apparent in the material.

Ali will repeat experiment, dividing material into two pieces. Will stretch one half of it to breaking point to find what that is. The second will be stretched to an optimal level below breaking point.

Ali will email me tomorrow to let me know how the current three samples are going and to report on any further tests made.

I will come up Monday 11am to look at the results and assess the next steps with Eugene, Ali and Alan.


Eugene, Alan, Simon

Lamination has worked and the materials are bonded. Tested fully, including applying solvent, and still the bond sustained. However there seems to be no mechanical reaction from the bonded material. Why?

The silicon is clear and transparent. After coming out of the reactor (centrifuge) the silicon becomes milky. Perhaps the solvent is reacting with the silicon and effecting the mechanical properties of the silicon. Otherwise, some of the elastomeric material is being forced into the silicon and therefore is no longer reacting with the other materrials that are required in the elastomer for the reaction to occur.

If this latter case is the situation (very bad) we can still deal with the problem. We could make the polymer first in a partially cross-linked state prior to binding it to the silicon in the reactor. Eugene feels we should do this test first as a means to address the worst case scenario.

Other possibility is that we haven't stretched the material enough or the silicon layer is too thick.

Eugene feels we will succeed eventually. The problems need to be addressed. He feels the research is valuable.

Agreed that primary objective is to make a mechanically deformable elastomer that can react to stimulus supplied by heated NiTionol springs. Fall-back position would be to make a pneumatic polymer that reacts. This would not be mechanically active but would have optical properties (opaque/transparent). Hopefully if we can achieve our primary goal then we can also manage to achieve our secondary goal.

Eugene has found out a little about heating elements. Ni-chrome wire heating element could be used, but is not insulated and would have to be put inside a flexible sleeve and then threaded through the NiTinol springs. This would heat the springs and would likely be safe. Otherwise, heat the springs directly with current, place a teflon sheet between that and the elastomer (to stop burning) to get final assembly.

Have to check to see if we have enough monomer to produce tests. It is probable that we have to ask Ali to make a whole "bucket" more. A "bucket" of material will cost about £1k.

I am to explore Ni-Chrome wire.

I will make another version of the NiTinol array which is electro-actuated by heat. Try to do this using a Ni-Chrome filament encased in a (cloth) sleeve that can transfer heat. Talk to Peter (Walters) about this.

Short discussion on publication. Alan is keen. Eugene and I are interested but do not see this as essential. Leonardo could be a posssibility, or one of the popular science magazines (Scientific American, etc). James would have a key role in this.

Wet-lab, Cavendish
Eugene, Ali, Alan, Simon

In the weighted test the weight has caused the elastomer to sheer and break up. The one that was stetched and heated has some sheering and breaking up, but very little. It has a sort of corrugated effect. This elastomer does react mechanically and curls up, but for the "wrong" reasons. Nevertheless, we do have a successful experiment in that we have a bonded hybrid material that does not delaminate which is reactive. The silicon component has to be much thinner so as to get a more profound elastomeric effect. Currently the behaviour of the material is the inverse to that expected. This is problematic. Why? It seems related to the corrugated character of the material, but if so then the reaction would be in the inverse direction. In all the material seems idiosyncratic.

To get a suitable balance (50/50) of silicon to elastomer we will need to increase the amount of elastomer in the reactor by at least 300%.

We will need (to make a 300 micron sheet of pneumatic elastomer) 8g per reactor load. We currently have about 8g of crystals so need to make more to have enough to do all the tests.

Eugene has asked Ali to make two pieces of silicon, one cross-linked and the other partially so, and then to bond them. Not certain why? Need to find this out. We think he wants to see if he can get a mechnical reaction without using elastomer.

We will try to make a meeting for May 11 but at this point we need to synchronise our diaries. Email will have to suffice to do this.

Ali will discuss things with Eugene and email me his thoughts as to why the material is behaving in such a confusing manner.

Computer Lab
Alan, Simon

Discussed distinction between art and its discursive relations and scientific publication and how each has value to its professional world.

Dealt with some practical budgetary details.

Identified dates for next visit. These are May 10 (PM) and 11 (no Alan for either) and May 17.


Wet-lab, Cavendish
Ali, James, Simon

Ali has completed two experiments. Both failed. The production of a large poly-domain elastomer took a lot of attempts and even then resulted in an elastomer, bonded to the PDMS, that tore itself apart in the reactor. A few pieces were rescued, the largest being about 7 x 5 cms. This will be useful for some experiments.

The other experiment to produce a smaller elastomer/PDMS bond also failed at the point of stretching the material, as the silicon reverted to original length more slowly than the elastomer causing the two to shear apart.

The total amount of elastomeric material used in all these experiments was 50 grams. This is a huge amount. Ali has 32 grams left and has another 32 grams in production. The amount of time involved has also been significant. Not sure what the costs of all this currently are?

My feeling is that we should get the material working as we wish in the small reactor so as to not waste too much more elastomer. When that is done we can look at how we can scale up the size of the elastomer. It is also clear that the priority is the elastomer with elastomeric properties than the poly-domain version with visual properties (opacity/transparency).

Ali suggests that by using a slightly greater amount of elastomer material in the small reactor experiment, where we are bonding PDMS and elastomer, that we will get a thicker elastomer to silicon ratio and that this will mean the silicon will tend to follow the elatomer more. Ali also intends to use a different solvent to prevent the swelling of the PDMS and thus its tendency to delaminate. Will do this in a smaller reactor, but a slightly larger one than that used in the previous experiment. Ali is confident he can get it to work.

We will meet again at the wet-lab at 11:00 on May 17.


Eugene, James, Alan, Simon

Eugene disappointed large film failed in last weeks experiments and does not understand why it is that the film is tearing itself apart in the centrifuge. Feels it is probably due to the material still containing solvent and thus being jelly-like at the end of the process. This could be due to the amount of the material making it harder for the film to evaporate the solvent during reaction.

Tried modifying reactor during earlier attempts, drilling holes in the top of the reactor to aid solvent evaporation. Perhaps just need to leave the reactor running for a lot longer. There is no limit to running a long reactor process so it is possible to deal with this although the amount of material involved means we have to be cautious.

If heating NiTinol spring to effect an elastomer causes the elastomer to stick to the springs then it would be wise to use a teflon sheet to protect.

Ali is working on bonding the silicon rubber (PDMS) and the elastomer. Problems are concerned with delamination. Tried various solvents and found a solvent that was good for making both PDMS and elastomer but not for bonding them together. Tried both making PDMS and Elastomer first, and then bonding the latter to the former. Still no bond. Now trying to do it with partially made PDMS bonding using a monomer and this did bond, but the monomer penetrated the PDMS and caused the PDMS to lose its elasticity meaning it tears easily. This is due to crystals of monomer penetrating the PDMS.

Ali is now going to try using a elastomeric polymer to see if the bond will work. He should have results available later this week. I am not available to come to Cambridge until June 1. Eugene is not sure if I need to come but perhaps I should just to push things along.

Ali is also trying to make a more robust elastomer that can be bonded to the PDMS. This is a different approach and Eugene is not sure if it will work.

It is going to be extemely difficult to make material that is of precise quality throughout, which means that it will always be impossible to have very precise responsive actions.

If these experiments fail then we should go back to the drawing board and look at using gluing techniques to achieve bonding. Most likely approach here would be to use silicon glue, bonding elastomer to PDMS.

Schedule. Official project end is end June. Outcomes at this point are quite open but ACE would be disappointed if there is no exhibitable output. Alan will contact funders to extend close date to end of calendar year. This will of course not effect budgets (this ends end of June) but will allow resource money to continue into the Autumn.

Ali's funding is until December. It is possible that Eugene's research in this area will cease beyond that date and he will focus on other areas in the future. With more and more funding oriented to networks and consortiums this form of research is harder to support. Eugene has found the process to date scientifically useful, with respect to the bi-layered work. If he had been working on this with a company there would have been stronger motivation for output in response to the nature of support from a commercial company, although the down-side of this is that everything then is output led. Working with an artist Eugene has found the process more light, perhaps playful, although frustrating.


Eugene, Alan, Simon

Discussed problem with research student support at SHU (illness). Will look at other options, including talking to a Cambridge student. Alan to talk to a student. Also will talk to Sergio about possibilities. There is a budget for that. Eugene also knows a couple (including a son, year 4 BSc electronics).

Alan has approval for funding to continue over Summer until December. Only constraint is stating expected outputs. Those we can expect include scientific outputs; book with James; prototype for exhibition. As yet no date or venue. Need to look at a venue and date. Simon to look at options. Sydney (Creativity and Cognition, 11.2004?). Kettles Yard, education gallery? Talk to Michael Harrison. Another output should be a public art proposal for Cambridge, as outlined in original proposal. Need to engage with public art people in Cambridge in respect of West Cambridge art program. Michael Harrison again. David Good? Need to talk to Francois Penz as well.

Ali failed after several attempts to bond the PDMS and elastomer. Problems with swelling, inconsistent behaviours. Decided finding solution was futile. Thus has glued silicon and elastomer together. The problem with this in the past was that the materials would delaminate over time. Eugene feels that it is possible to find the right glue that will offer adhesion and permanence. Tried two or three glues. Silicon glue. Evostick solvent based glue. Copydex, also solvent based. Also another glue.

Evostick was no good at all, due to manner in which solvent works, which damages materials. The silicon glue and other glue seemed to work well. How long they survive is open to question. Eugene concerned that there will be a problem here. Ali will set up an oven with a timer to do multiple exposures of the material to see how many it takes for the material to delaminate. Eugene's expectation is that we will need to talk to a glue expert.

If we have a sheet that changes transparency with heating and cooling on top of electro-heated NiTinol we would need to make a larger sheet of non-aligned elastomer, which did not work before.

Eugene suggests we do two things. First need to find out how we want material to buckle. Need to make a thin sheet of silicon and glue strips of elastomer to it to see what happens. Then trigger it with a moveable and focused heat source (perhaps an optical heat gun). Try to find one. Gluing process takes 24 hours. This suggests making a series of tests with different designs to see effects.

I will design a number of experimental layouts after we have glued one strip to a silicon sheet. Ali will do this and we will look at results at 11:00 Tuesday June 15. Once we can see the effects we should be able to design efficient experiments. Important to save materials.

Cavendish wet lab
Ali, Eugene, Alan, Simon

Looked at experiments of glued elastomers/silicons. Three examples, including one very large one. All have profound responses to heat. Look great, especially the big one. In most instances the silicon is too thin, allowing material to roll up. However, with a larger sheet, the effect could be very different so it is unclear how thick such silicon sheet should be.

Ali will set up a timer/oven system to test numerous times the laminating strength and permanence of the bonded material.

Ali will make a sheet of silicon with a strip of elastomer laminated to it.

Alan will try some experiments with elastic glued to stretched latex to see intiial effects, as a possible precursor to silicon/elastomer experiments.

Simon will talk to Michael Harrison.

Next meeting Tuesday 11:00 June 15.


Cavendish Lab
Eugene, Alan, James, Simon

Alan has produced a latex/latex strip prototype of what a silicon/elastomer assembly would look like. It has skin like qualities. Used spray on carpet contact adhesive. When first applied the latex swelled but as it cured it reverted to default state. It is in effect the opposite of what we are wanting to do. Raises questions about the effects of different sized elastomers on a substrate.

Ali has done about 30 or 35 tests on the bonded silicon/elastomer. It delaminated, but strangely it was the silicon rubber that delaminated from the glue whilst the elastomer remained connected to the glue. So, then made a silicon glue substrate and then bonded the elastomer to that. Advantage is that it is cheap but it is not possible to produce a large sheet of the silicon glue. It works well as a resistant substrate thus allowing controlled responses (bending). To achieve larger scale sheets of material the next step will be to try and use latex as a substrate.

Simon will inquire at Hallam's workshop about availability of latex sheeting, preferably transparent or semi-transparent. Important that the latex is cross-linked (vulcanised) to ensure strength and elasticity.

Alan to talk to Spike Bucklow in the art restoration department at Cambridge who is a specialist in latex modelling.

Wet lab
Eugene, Alan, James, Simon

Demonstared latest version of the elastomer, which has rapid and acute response to heat. The silicon glue substrate makes an excellent material for the elastomer to react against and thus bend appropriately in a controlled manner.

Looked at different glues for bonding latex to latex. Silicon glue failed to bond. Bostik contact adhesive did work but is not elastic enough to allow elastomer to react with substrate. Thus the glue that Alan employed might be best to try next.

Need to test to see if Alan's spray on contact adhesive will bond elastomer to latex. Also need to look and see if there are different latex based compounds that would bond with silicon glue.


Fellowship Network meeting
Led by Bronac Ferran and James Leach, Kings College

Next Fellowship deadline February 2005

Alan Wall
The world through a lens, a process of "objectification" - the phenomenalogical gap. The difference between representation and modelling.

Alan and I
Jo mentioned Human Ware project at Cranfield, doing work with elastomers.

Worked at IRCAM previously. Using MAX/MSP, which he finds is not good with data-base work. Have written a new class library so that MAX will support data-bases. Will they make this public? What about a MIDI conductors baton? Notative techniques?

Practice as metaphor. Artist reflecting upon scientific research methods. How much should the artist know about the theoretical underpinning of a particular science?

Space science plasma physics. Saturn has an electro-magnetic field. Does it have an iron core like the Earth? Metallic Hydrogen, apparently.

Flocking and locational media. A little like Urban Tapestries.


Heidegger, The Origin of the Work of Art


Mis-use of technology by artists is interesting to scientists as it pushes the technology involved. Ippolito's "art of mis-use".



Cavendish Lab
Eugene, Alan, Simon

Showed prototype. Agreed that cooling is the issue. A group of 4 switches in the centre would probably suffice. Eugene used a temperature probe to gauge spring response characteristics. After a medium long burst of voltage of some seconds gauge showed 88c and the acrylic sub-frame began to smoke where the spring was in contact with it. Eugene obsevered we use a plastic that does not burn.

We want the springs to operate at about 80-100c which is the temperature that the elastomers will also react. Did an exmperiment with a spare spring to see how hot it could get. Went up to 350c without apparent damage to the spring. Solder on the crocodile clips began to smoke, but that is all. So long as the sub-frame can handle these temperatures then we can get high enough temperature to stimulate elastomers.

Use a refigeration plate beneath springs to keep them cool. Another option would be water evaporation.

Alan suggests that using elastomer with a layer of silicon glue on it in various arrangments to get various effects. Two options are to have a mechanical elastomer and an optical one. If we aim for a large sheet with optical properties would it be viable?

Eugene is to check with Ali to see whether a large optical sheet can be made. Will report this week if there are any issues.


Cavendish Lab
Eugene, Alan, Simon

Did a series of experiments with elastomer on top of the NiTinol array. Tried various materials to protect the polymer (teflon sheet, aluminium foil, paper) and also in an unprotected state. The teflon gave best results with visible, although not profound, visual effect of localised transparency in the opaque milky coloured polymer.

To try a better setup need to be able to heat the springs hotter and have a better conductive sub-material. Need thinner gauge teflon to allow better heat transfer. Also need to insulate the sub-frame from the heat of the springs much better. Ensure the teflon is taut. It will lubricate the polymer. Simon will try some experiments at SHU with various combinations of these factors.

We will meet again as necessary and to put together the materials for the larger array (when that is ready, probably later next semester, depending on SHU Engineering student availability.

Eugene talked about an Italian product Polymer Dispersed Liquid Crystals, which has the ability to change opacity depending on electrical current. Is manufactured in huge sheets. Used in architecture, auto-industry, etc. Company is a subsidiary of FIAT.

Discussed Prague Bienale possibility for next year as a potential output.

James will interview Eugene for reflective purposes.