Scintilla, 2005

Abhinand Lath

Location: Detroit, Michigan
Click above to view the full-size image

I repeat my vow
In unchanging colors of the
ageless Bamboo—
Which still creates ten thousand
Generations of shadows

— Gyokuran (eleventh-century
Japanese poet)

SensiTile is a material inspired by a material. When Abhinand Lath was working on a thesis about bamboo at the University of Michigan’s school of architecture, he came across the Japanese poem above. He was inspired to translate the idea of light, shadow, and movement into a material based upon his previous work, which had involved embedding fiberoptics into concrete. The end product was SensiTile, a material with kaleidoscopic arrays of color, a passive system which responds to existing light sources so that the more active the movement of light or an object, the more rapidly the surface changes.

SensiTile technology is composed of a light-conducting matrix and a substrate within which the matrix is embedded. It transports light from one surface point to another by total internal reflection—the same principle that makes fiberoptics possible. SensiTile either reconfigures the shadows that fall on it or redirects and scatters any oncoming light. In an environment with ambient light, any movement around the material that casts shadows will produce a set of “ripples” on the material’s surface; while in darker environments, any beam of light falling on a SensiTile is redirected to emerge from another part of its surface.

The light-conducting matrix can be combined with a range of materials including concrete (Terrazzo), polymer (Scintilla), and resin (SensiTile Volatile), and has been incorporated into flooring, walls, façades, countertops, and partitions. At a time when it has become commonplace to see everything from rose petals to metal grillwork embedded into resin wall systems, SensiTile creates an alternative—a “material as dynamic as light.”