[28 Feb 2012 | 2 Comments | 10,717 views]
Nth Degree Makes Flat, Flexible, Printed LED Lights

 
I’m starting to worry that I’m turning into an ostrich.
I’m territorial and ill-tempered. I’m fighting a strange desire to eat shiny objects. And when I get scared, I find myself hiding my face as though not seeing whatever is scaring me will make it go away. And this may or may not be related: I’m developing a strong aversion to light bulbs.

Image courtesy http://www.ostrichheadinsand.com/
A company called Nth Degree Tech may be able to help me out with that last problem. They’re seeking to replace light bulbs with their first commercial product, …

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[23 Jan 2012 | One Comment | 3,434 views]
A Glue That Sniffs up Pollution!

 
I feel quite strongly that pollution is an evil and nefarious menace; it kills plants and animals, probably causes cancer, and coats everything on your street-facing balcony with a layer of dark brown powdery sludge that means you have to toss heavy buckets of water over your white metal patio furniture anytime you have guests over. I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.

1952 | London Smog – Image courtesy ptkeepcalmcarryon.blogspot.com
Anyway – as I mentioned, I am deeply opposed to pollution in many of its forms, and I’m thinking of founding …

WATER, WOOD »

[10 Jan 2012 | No Comment | 7,336 views]
Radiant Light Film: Learning to Make Rainbows from Butterflies

 
Sometimes the beginning of the year is a little bit … well … boring. Everyone is working out at the gym and eating healthy green foods, and even though the sun still sets at an ungodly hour, all the festive holiday parties are over.  This admirably disciplined January attitude is great for working off all the pfeffernüsse you shoved in your face and chased with rum-laced egg nog at your Aunt Betty’s house in December, but if you’re not careful all of this new-found rigidity and focus could negatively affect …

EARTH, WATER »

[27 Dec 2011 | No Comment | 13,864 views]
Not Quite Coral: A New Type of Cement Made from CO2 and Water

 
When I was a small and intensely young person, my parents would drive me down the California coastline to a town called Carmel near Monterrey Bay, where we would hang out on the beach and frolic amongst the slowly rotting kelp and aggressive sea gulls, eat burgers at Flaherty’s Seafood Restaurant (which specializes in seafood, not land food – I was five), and weave in and out of various art galleries until we were tired enough to return to our hotel and fall asleep.

Image courtesy citi-data.com
One time down in Carmel …

WOOD »

[4 Dec 2011 | No Comment | 11,130 views]
Q&A Special: How to Bend Bamboo

 
Every once in a while someone sends me a materials-related question and I get to sit at a local wing joint on a rainy day, my non-typing hand covered in piquant buffalo sauce and stringy, ranch-coated celery fragments, watching multiple football games simultaneously while happily dispensing advice on subjects about which I may or may not have any expertise … and it is glorious. In the interest of sharing knowledge and offering a forum for people with actual experience and/or information concerning the question to contribute what they know (which …

EARTH, WATER »

[29 Nov 2011 | No Comment | 6,537 views]
Solid Poetry: Patterns Revealed in Concrete When Wet

 
The grass is always greener – except when it doesn’t rain appreciably for three straight months, as was the case this summer where I live in Texas. Here, the grass was golden brown, parched, dessicated and crunchy like a stale sugar cookie or gauze belonging to a dried out ancient Egyptian mummy. As summer wore on, I found myself desperately squinting up at the blazing blue sky, searching in vain for the faintest hint of cloud formation. We were facing the kind of heat that makes standing on black pavement …

EARTH, METAL »

[21 Nov 2011 | No Comment | 5,749 views]
The Lightest Material in the Entire World

 
Things are heavy right now, man. People are fighting wars, Wall Street is occupied, a large percentage of the workforce can’t find jobs, airport security procedures intensify in complexity by the minute, the rainforest is shrinking as I type … and that’s just the tip of the rapidly melting iceberg. So if you’re already feeling like Atlas with the weight of the world on your shoulders, you’ll be glad to find out that scientists recently invented a material so lightweight it makes styrofoam seem as heavy as a lead ingot.
In …

FIRE, WATER, WOOD »

[10 Nov 2011 | No Comment | 10,591 views]
New Fully Stretchable OLED Will Make You Crave Taffy

 
Yesterday I bent over in the attempt to tie the absurdly bright purple shoe laces on my almost offensively bright purple sneakers and made a startling discovery: I’m not as flexible as I used to be.  In fact, the overwhelming tightness of my hamstrings makes your standard British upper lip look positively floppy; and as I fired up my smartphone to schedule some emergency yoga I was reminded that I had yet to share an amazing new fully stretchable OLED display recently developed at the University of California, Los Angeles, …

WOOD »

[12 Oct 2011 | No Comment | 3,608 views]
Paper Foam: It’s Foam … Made of Paper.

 
There’s this place where I live called “Jimmy’s Food Store” and it is, as you might expect, a store where food is sold.  But oh what food it is!  Italian comestibles dripping with Italian deliciousness, sold with Italian gusto to Italians and non-Italians alike.  At Jimmy’s Food Store you can get an Italian meatball sandwich that will bring tears to your eyes. You will literally be crying as you eat it because it is so tasty, and you’ll be crying after you’ve eaten it because you’ll be so sad it’s …

EARTH, WATER »

[6 Oct 2011 | One Comment | 2,865 views]
Modern Super-Spies Like Bacterial Invisible Ink

 
There wouldn’t be so many spy novels if there weren’t something so delightfully compelling about the idea of being a spy: you’re invited to imagine that your job is to sneak around in a trench coat and fedora, talking out of the side of your mouth and pretending to be something or someone you’re not in order to gather information on behalf of the resistance.
Knowing something you’re forbidden to know, or that other people want to know but don’t – or that other people don’t think you know, imparts a …

WATER, WOOD »

[14 Sep 2011 | One Comment | 20,206 views]
Spider Glue Investigation Yields Smart Materials Insight

 
There are three types of people in the world: those who carefully transport insects and arachnids out of the building on sheets of paper, releasing them into the wild to roam free, bite innocent people, and reproduce; those who whip off their hard-soled shoes and gleefully smash anything with an exoskeleton that happens to wander within range; and those for whom the thought of a particularly nasty bug is enough to inspire a scream-enhanced instinctive high-speed run headlong into another room.
I belong to the last category, and thus it is …

WOOD »

[5 Sep 2011 | One Comment | 5,300 views]
Actuated Matter Workshop Part 2: Glass Fiber Reinforced Plastic

 
Even thinking about glass fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP) makes me itchy. The reason for this is that the glass strands involved with this material are so fine (by which I mean that they are extremely thin and tiny, rather than that they are really really ridiculously good looking) that they get caught in your skin and clothes and become profoundly irritating, after the manner of a wood splinter or Brett Favre.

Image courtesy taiwan.xpshou.com
At the Actuated Matter Workshop in Zurich, we were introduced to a particular configuration of GFRP developed by …

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[4 Aug 2011 | One Comment | 4,625 views]
Actuated Matter Workshop Part 1: Intro

Last week I found myself in Zürich, Switzerland, which in itself is somewhat unusual for a person who typically lives and works in the great state of Texas.  To add to that, while installed in said location I experienced one of those intensive periods of excitement and discovery that only happen when you toss yourself and an over-stuffed rolling suitcase headlong into a foreign country and participate in a workshop in order to learn how to screen print electroluminescent lamps (and also to learn that, although they are healthier, multigrain croissants are simply not as delicious as the …

WOOD »

[21 Jul 2011 | No Comment | 2,122 views]
New Squishy Memristor Device: Friends Don’t Let Friends go Binary

First of all, let me tell you that I’m so glad you could make it today and that you’re willing to listen to what I’m about to say to you – what I’m saying as your friend.  We’ve known each other a long time, and I’ve been thinking about how best to communicate my concern for a while now.  I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to say this is to be blunt and forthright and just come out with it: I think you are working …

FIRE, WOOD »

[19 Jul 2011 | 3 Comments | 5,754 views]
Color-Change Tech for Lenses could turn Buildings into Chameleons!

Say what you will about the 1990′s, the decade produced some severely under-appreciated and entirely too short-lived cultural moments: I mean, Hammer pants? Titanic? Come on – you know you loved it!  Another phenomenon of the 1990′s that in some ways is slightly less exciting than the OJ Simpson trial, but which has stayed with us to this day is: green-tinted glass.

Image courtesy metaefficient.com
No one knows exactly how it started, but I imagine that sometime in the 1990′s, an architect somewhere in the world specified green-tinted glass for the …

WATER, WOOD »

[13 Jul 2011 | One Comment | 2,841 views]
I Heart MIT’s New Flexible, Printable Solar Cells

My desk at work sits across from an ancient beige laser printer the size of a Volkswagen, which pretty much unceasingly spews toner particles, artfully arranged on tabloid- and letter-sized sheets of paper, out of its graceless plastic maw. I bring this up because the adjacency has driven me to resent general workday printing even more than the occasional trip to the plotter (which, if you have never tangled with a large-format printer, makes a fourteen hour trip on Aeroflot sound appealing by comparison).
I resent the noise of the printer, …

WATER »

[8 Jul 2011 | No Comment | 4,343 views]
New Nanomaterial Makes Adsorption Chilling Even Cooler!

It’s that time of year again when the mercury climbs just above 100 degrees every single day and it’s so hot that the sun obliterates any clouds brash enough to assemble themselves with the intent to produce rain.  Everything is wilted, melted, bleached out, overswept by a hot wind that makes the tail end of a jet engine seem like a lovely place with a calm and refreshing breeze.
So given these conditions, it will come as no surprise that researchers led by Peter McGrail out of the Pacific Northwest National …

METAL »

[24 Jun 2011 | No Comment | 3,490 views]
Got Heat? Got Metal? MAKE ELECTRICITY!

I admit that my understanding of generators is pretty hazy, but I think the general idea is to wave magnets in front of conductive wire in an orderly fashion in order to produce a flow of current.  Once you have an electric current the door to a world of unmitigated awesome opens up and all of a sudden you have light when the sun has set and the ability to microwave popcorn.

Image courtesy todayifoundout.com
A fascinating new metal alloy material under development by researchers at the University of Minnesota, led by Professor Richard James, works …

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