In the future, our designed living space will be high-tech and shaped by materials that can react to stimuli and influences from the environment. We are also asked to use our resources in an ecologically sustainable and intelligent way. 

Cellulose is one of the most frequently occurring building blocks and most often used renewable raw materials in nature. Cellulose is used to make paper, which can also be used to make yarn. Cellulose fibres can absorb a lot of water. The individual fibres swell differently depending on the fibre direction; when dried they shrink again. This effect of the form change (by the influencing factor humidity) is tried to avoid in the conventional use of wood as building material. 

In the project HYDROWEAVE, this natural principle of „hygroscopic movement“ was transferred from nature onto a textile material system: paper yarn made of cellulose fibres is woven into a surface. The type of yarn twist and the specificity of the fabric construction can be used to regulate the shape change of the fabric through moisture. When the fabric releases moisture back into the environment, it returns to its original shape. This process is both reversible and repeatable. The material system thus serves both as an indicator and a regulator of the surrounding humidity.The system consists of woven, square modules that are joined together to form a spatial, pattern-like structure. In addition to its technical function, the system also acquires an aesthetic sculptural character. 

The special quality of HYDROWEAVE is the productive transformation of a commonly problematic property of cellulose. The result is a smart material that works without any technical aids – e.g. sensors – and is produced entirely from renewable raw materials. In a unique way, HYDROWEAVE combines simplicity and reduction; an everyday material is further developed according to its properties and thus unfolds completely new application possibilities. 

Project partner: Stefanie Eichler 

Photography: Leonie Schöning

Timelapse of the hygroscopic movement of paper yarn and the paper yarn modules.