Designer Clement Zheng has created a collection of conductive ceramics that can heat food, interface with smart devices, and detect moisture.
Zheng, who developed the concept with a team of researchers at the National University of Singapore, including designer Hans Tan, said he drew on the idea of computers interacting with everyday life to create pieces that are in would be helpful in everyday situations.
The ceramics are placed on placemats with conductive pads
“We were inspired by the Internet of Things and wanted to explore how ‘smart’ objects could be embedded in everyday life,” Zheng told Dezeen.
“In this project, rather than designing a separate line of electronic devices for the home, we envisioned how ordinary ceramic wares could be transformed into objects to interact with.”
Light or music can be controlled via a salad bowl
Among other things, a salad bowl with a touch slider was created, which can be used as an interface for smart home devices such as music systems or lighting.
The team also created a four-electrode plate that could monitor eating activity and a plate with a heating circuit that could heat the plate up to 100 degrees Celsius and be used to keep food warm while serving meals.
Other pieces in the collection include tiles that can detect heat or temperature changes and could be used to detect a boiling kettle or wet floors, and a humidity-sensing flower pot that could help users keep an eye on plants’ moisture levels.
Clement Zheng and the team also developed heat-sensitive tiles
The designers used a resist blasting technique developed by Tan to make the ceramic conductive.
They masked the ceramic objects with vinyl decals cut into circuit design shapes before blasting them with alumide powder, which removes materials from the unmasked parts of the vessel.
Plates could help provide data on eating activity
Zheng then manually smeared silver conductive ink onto the sandblasted traces, which was eventually scraped off to leave inlaid conductive traces on the ceramic vessel.
“The conductive paths on the ceramic serve as functional sensors, such as temperature and humidity sensors, and transducers, such as heating elements,” he said.
The R for Repair exhibit features a toothy seashell and a storytelling clock radio
“We connect these traces to an external power supply and a microcontroller to send and receive electrical signals,” he continued.
“To connect the ceramic vessels to these external components, we used a custom placemat with conductive pads.”
A flower pot with interactive circuits can measure humidity
Zheng sourced the pottery used in the project from local homeware stores as well as thrift stores and big retailers like IKEA, and hopes it could eventually become a commercial collection.
“We always think about commercializing project results,” he said. “Currently, we are focused on researching and advancing the approach of integrating functional circuits on ceramic objects and testing their durability in view of daily use,” he added.
The team also created a panel with a heating circuit
More infrastructure also needs to be developed for conductive ceramics to become an integral part of everyday life.
“We are also developing the computing and electronics infrastructure that these objects need to function in a broader networked system,” Zheng said.
“These are important issues that we need to solve in order to translate this concept from prototypes into real products.”
The dishes can be washed
The team is also currently investigating the lifespan of products that can be hand-washed, since the “recessed circuit paths are resistant to abrasion and wear,” Zheng explained.
“We are just beginning the next phase of this research,” he added. “In this new phase, we plan to study the effective lifetime of the sensors and to study different conductive inks for durability. Anecdotally, the objects we make are all still working after almost six months.”
Zheng’s previous projects include a clock radio turned into a storytelling device, which was featured at the R for Repair exhibition in Singapore.
London studio Bare Conductive have also experimented with conductive design, turning a sheet of paper into a working light, while Mui Lab created a wooden plank that acts as a smart home controller.
Clement Zheng’s conductive ceramics can control sound and sense moisture, which first appeared on Dezeen.