Material Exploration: Conductive Crystallized Textiles

I had the pleasure of visiting the Material Connexion library this semester and during my visit, a particular textile innovation caught my eye: MUUNA’s “artificilae/matter”. Post visit, I did some research and learned that Hannah Croft, the textile designer behind “artificilae/matter” created an extensive collection of samples where crystals are grown onto woven and embroidered textiles to create mineral surfaces of ‘cultivated embellishment.’ The concept is genius, given how abundantly crystals are used for embellishing surfaces, even capable of evoking nostalgia and/or healing. Conventional methods of crystal application typically involve hand-sewing or adhesives, which can be labor intensive and expensive. Growing crystals is an obvious and elegant alternative. As evidenced below, the compositions are breathtaking and organic:

  

Inspired, I began experimenting with growing crystals on textiles myself. I submerged some lace and trims in a concentrated bath of Borax and distilled water. I was happy with the result, but found that after the leaving them to dry for a few days, the crystals would flake off and leave powdery residues everywhere. That is not ideal.

More hours spent down a Youtube rabbit hole led me to crystallized metals and electrochemistry. For my final project, I will be combining my final for Soft Robotics to cultivate conductive crystallized textiles by method of electrolysis. I will focusing on applying the crystallization of copper to potentially generate traces for a working circuit.

^ Measuring Copper Sulphate Pentahydrate Crystals to make Copper Sulphate solution.

^ Submerging a bundle of feathers coiled with copper wire

^ Applying current for electrolysis

This is a sample of one of my swatches. As I predicted, the crystals adhere best to napped surfaces. I also examined the crystal formations under a microscope and they look fantastic. More photos to come as I work on my next iteration of swatches.

To be continued…

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