The Evolution of Matter & Materials


Humankind’s evolution has gone hand in hand with our exploitation and refining of the material universe, in which we inhabit. It is no accident that we have named our ages: The Bronze Age, The Iron Age etc. It is the fashioning of these inert material, which has propelled us as a species into the future. Our advancement has been inextricably accompanied by our use of minerals and their transformation into metals. The alchemist, who we now call a computer or electrical engineer, sits at the centre of a rapidly changing universe.

The Evolution of Matter & Materials

Early humankind lived in caves and utilised them for protection from the elements of nature less favourable to his and her health and safety. Rock, yes during The Stone Age, was used for shelter and weapons, with spear, axes and arrow heads made from flint. Some early humans lived in tree houses and exploited the natural resource of timber. They crafted their tools and weapons out of wood. Transportation devices like canoes and carts were built out of wood. Homes were constructed out of timber. Human beings used every conceivable part of their material universe to house, hunt and celebrate.

Building materials have come a long way since those distant days, of course, we still employ timber frames in most houses. Wood remains a big favourite with men and women across the globe. There is something about the feel and smell of timber that rubs us up the right way. It is a finite resource however and many parts of the world have been stripped bare of their forests and woods. Cutting down too many trees causes soil erosion and creates weather patterns that are bad for the planet. So, humankind has got smarter and explored other materials with which to construct their buildings and homes.

The evolution of matter and materials has been the most important development in the evolution of homo sapiens from apes to masters of the Earth. We have created lighter yet stronger building materials than ever thought possible. Things like solar-thermal cladding, which utilises wood louvers and back-vented glazing. Synthetic spider thread, Qmonos, by the Japs, is so Spiderman. The fibroin protein in Qmonos comes from bio-engineered bacteria and recombinant DNA. A Dutch designer is building a bridge via 3D printing, Joris Laaramn is utilising MX3D multi-axis metal-printing technology. The bridge will be built by robots that can print lines of metals in mid-air and weld them together. Wow!