Diffusion occurs when a substance moves from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration, eventually reaching a state of equilibrium. When this substance is influenced by a local chemical reaction, it becomes unstable – it is this instability that causes the pattern formation of animals.
During an animals embryonic phase, genes that carry skin pigment can be activated by a chemical signal called a morphogen. If there is a high concentration with an even distribution rate of this morphogen, a very even colour is produced, like the elephant, whereas an uneven distribution rate will form patterns such as the spots of a leopard or the stripes of a zebra. This process is known as Reaction-diffusion. Historically, the first model of this morphogenesis was proposed by British Mathematician, Alan Turing, consisting of coupled partial differential equations that describe the changes and patterns created between these activator-inhibitor particles over time.
To understand the movement of a substance from a region of high concentration to a region of low concentration, I began by observing the diffusion of substances with different viscosity through water. Testing this with a variety of parameters i.e. fluid temperature, concentration and viscosity enabled me to monitor the differing properties of the fluids during the diffusion process.
Following this, I observed how a liquid compound changed with the introduction of a ‘reaction’. I used milk which contains both water and proteins/fats that when fresh are in a stable state. To simulate the chemical reaction, soap was added to the milk which reacts with the fats and proteins to separate them from the water particles – this was visualized with the addition of the dye.
To study this reaction-diffusion process as a time based system, I took videos of the above experiment and broke them down into a sequence of images at a rate of 10 frames per second. 3 dimensional interpretations of these patterns have been created as shown below. Further experimentation in larger scales shall inform a developed proposal of a pavilion for the Burning Man Festival.
Additional studies of these patterns using perspex with a controlled light source creates a very different approach, and shall influence designs for a temporary installation at Buro Happold.