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Extraordinary materials now housed in UCL's new 'Institute of Making'

17 March 2013

UCL's new Institute of Making provides a permanent home to the Materials Library, a collection of the most unusual materials in the world.

From UCL's Materials Library: ulexite is characterised by its very unusual optical properties (photo courtesy University College London)
From UCL's Materials Library: ulexite is characterised by its very unusual optical properties (photo courtesy University College London)

Alongside the Materials Library is the MakeSpace, which UCL describes as the ultimate making workshop.
The library contains over 1,500 materials including uranium glass, steel cloth, magnetic liquid, concrete that can heal itself using embedded bacteria, and rock that acts as a naturally occurring optical fibre.
Alongside the library sits the MakeSpace, which gives members the chance to boil, bake, turn, mill, mend, spin, print, cut, cast, drill, sand, scrape and make. The facilities include 3D printing, sewing machines, ovens, soldering irons and even a crane.
The combination of the Materials Library and the MakeSpace is a world first for a university engineering faculty. The Institute of Making as a whole, whose glass walls face into Malet Place in the heart of UCL in Bloomsbury, aims to let users experience first hand the relationships between materials and tools that constitute processes of making.

Mark Miodownik, Director of the Institute of Making and UCL Professor of Materials & Society said: “Making as a way of thinking is fundamental. Engineering has been dominated by the internet and the digital sphere for the past 20 years, but people do not live a virtual life; they live in the real, material world.
“Material science is now coming up with the goods and showing how to remake the world a completely different way.”

The Institute of Making will be open to the public for special events and open days. The Institute also plans to host workshops with guest experts, maker residencies and opportunities to make, break and repair everything from jewellery to robots.

Dr Zoe Laughlin, Creative Director of the Institute of Making & Curator of the Materials Library said: “The Institute of Making is like a dream garden shed where anything is possible. Every material is to hand, from iron ore, to the perfect piece of string.”

“We have created a space where the power and joy of making can be fully realised.”
A Materials Library iPhone app is in development which will allow users to digitally explore the collection from anywhere in the world.

Previous Institute of Making projects have investigated how we experience materials, looking at how the taste of food is affected by the cutlery we eat it from, and how the appearance of materials affects the way they feel to us.

Studentships funded by the Institute of Making have allowed UCL students to pursue interdisciplinary material based projects, such as one in UCL Medical Physics & Bioengineering looking at developing fabrics kinder to skin.

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