One of Pil’s favorite pieces in the exhibit is “Desert Stool (Salts – Vegan Design)” by Erez Nevi Pana, who designs vegan furniture using salt and soil. One method of letting organic materials grow into composite materials is to immerse branches in salt water until the salt has crystallized onto and in between the branches. The wood used to make the stool was entwined and submerged in the Dead Sea for several months. “I really appreciate Nevi Pana’s commitment and how he conveys it to a wide audience through a poetic project,” says Pil. “We need not only new technical realizations and developments, but also a fundamentally different approach to raw materials.”

In addition to the end-use applications, the Fibre-Fixed exhibit also displayed raw materials and featured videos showing 10 composites manufacturing methods. While final numbers weren’t yet available, the exhibit drew crowds. During the two weeks around the Christmas holiday, the exhibit had 4,000 visitors – a very high number for Design Museum Gent, according to Verpoest. Many groups also organized visits, including companies, schools and cultural groups.

The hope is that “people get enthusiastic about the interaction between designers and new composite materials, and that they discover how such interactions can help to address many societal challenges,” says Verpoest. Consider the problem of material waste: A chair on display by Christien Meindertsma was made from locally grown flax and a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable sources. The 100 percent bio-based chair is lightweight and biodegradable, thereby eliminating material waste during its production and at end-of-life.

Verpoest and Pil would like to see the Fibre-Fixed exhibit travel around the world. They are optimistic about the future of composites. “Because of their intrinsic technical properties, composites have a great future in all applications where lightness – and hence low environmental impact and sustainability – are crucial,” says Verpoest. “But even more importantly, what the exhibition clearly shows is that the creativity and imagination of designers will bring many more surprising applications and even lead to new composite material concepts.”