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Worms as construction workers? Maybe not as farfetched as you think

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Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2014 10:00 am

Will your new home one day be built by worms?
OK, that's a stretch. But using materials and design patterns from nature to create structures is here and now.
On Wednesday, I sat in on a presentation by Neri Oxman, an MIT professor who leads research into "material ecology." She was a featured speaker at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference in San Francisco.
In essence, Oxman studies how the brilliance of natural construction may be used to help people. She showed a video of 6,500 silkworms who, over time, created a sizable structure known as a pavilion. 
She's intrigued by the strength and adaptability of natural materials. Could a building that is damaged, if it is made from a natural, living material, heal itself?
Can clothing be made to adapt automatically to human movement, temperature, stress?
Oxman studies patterns in nature and reflects them in sophisticated computations. Her work could lead to better, longer-lasting and greener materials. 
There are ethical issues, though: Will we be tempted to create genetically modified monster silkworms to build our new patio covers?
Oxman also touched on the use of 3D printers in construction. Think of a 3D printer, using renewable biological material, creating a custom home.
Oxman and team put together a video on the pavilion created by all those hard-spinning silkworms.
You can check it out here:  http://vimeo.com/67177328

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