Focus on New Materials

Close-Up Magazine talking to Dr. Sascha Peters

Close-Up Magazine, August 2011
Red Circle Media

This year’s international festival of design, DMY Berlin, now in its ninth year, has paid special attention to new materials, which are at the heart of a revolution in aesthetics, technology and economics. We met Sascha Peters, organiser from DMY’s materials workshop, and author of the book “Material Revolution”.

Close-Up: What were the outcomes of the Materials workshop that was held at DMY in Berlin?

Dr. Sascha Peters: We have put together 21 companies producing new materials (divided into: light structures and textile materials, smart and functional materials, organic and eco-sustainable materials), with the end users – engineers, architects, designers – inviting them to a creative brainstorming. The time available was not sufficient to develop real projects or new applications, but the workshop has proved an excellent platform for the presentation and communication of new materials.

Close-Up: How and why do new materials come about?

The search for new materials stems from an ever more pressing need, to find an alternative to the raw materials and oil we get from fossils. Innovation can result from an accidental discovery, as in the case of “sea balls”, aggregates of sea grass collected on a Sicilian beach for a bonfire and then proved, contrary to appearances, not to be a suitable fuel. Or it is the result of a search that starts from the “function” for which a material is intended. But the most stunning results are obtained in the laboratory by mimicking the principles of organic growth that occur in nature: the case of cellulose produced by bacteria, or EcoCradle, a substitute organic polystyrene from Ecovative Design (USA) with a foam of fungal origin and cereal husks.

Close-Up: What are the latest opportunities in the field of textile and ceramics?

In the field of textile, innovations are diverse: from tissues fortified with heat-sensitive pigments that change colour depending on the wearer, to those containing luminescent particles, and light up in the dark (DigitalDawn of; then onto the rediscovery of ancient fabrics, made with traditional techniques (Barktex), ultra-light, high performance technological fabrics, which use nanotechnology (Aerofabríx), to those made with cellulose produced by bacteria (Biocouture). As for the ceramic industry, the main innovation is Hydrotect, based on titanium dioxide, which gives the tiles antibacterial and (even) de-pollution properties. Another novelty is the so-called nanoceramic. An example is the ceramic wallpaper ccflex wallpaper, that could replace tiles.


image: DigitalDawn (source:, UK)