‘I wonder what is inside that trash can’ is a thought we never suspected to have while still having the privilege of living a non-homeless life. Yet, it is something we now wonder every time we pass one. This is what Tesla, and our project for DSM-Niaga has done to us.
When we were in the lab, problem solving involved looking closer at things we were already familiar with: a line of code, the calibration mechanism of the microscope, a set of scientific papers. In Tesla, the success of our project depends on an almost infinite number of factors. ‘Societal context’ went from an obligated, often dreaded, first chapter of a thesis report to the very core of our research question.
Our project revolves around the circular economy, where instead of throwing products away after use, they are designed in such a way that they can be reused, remanufactured or recycled. DSM-Niaga has developed a glue that can decouple when heated to a specific temperature, which makes taking apart products to remanufacture them a lot easier. We are helping them finding the perfect product to use their glue in, a product that is thrown away a lot. Hence, our obsession for trash cans – and basically materials in general. Where did it come from? What is it made of? How did it end up here? At what cost for the environment or the economy?
If you catch Daphnee staring out of the window, it doesn’t mean she is bored, she is contemplating the insulation lining surrounding it. What is trivial to one, is the brilliant answer to someone else’s problem. The next time you see someone digging in a trash can, don’t judge too quickly – it could be a Tesla.