EARTH, WOOD »

[22 Mar 2011 | One Comment | 14,068 views]
Form Us With Love: Hexagonal Wood Wool Cement Board Tiles

When you’re a designer, having problems can be a good thing. Well, I suppose I ought to be clear that I am talking about certain kinds of problems (for example, not even one of Jay-Z’s 99 problems would qualify). FORM US WITH LOVE, a design collective based in Sweden, turned a problem they were having with an echoing studio space into a partnership with a woodwool cement manufacturer. Träullit is a 20-man factory located in Österbymo, “little more than a fleck on the map between Stockholm and Malmö” and it’s the only manufacturer of woodwool cement …

EARTH »

[15 Mar 2011 | One Comment | 4,673 views]
Meco’Briq: Rammed Earth has Nothing Whatsoever to do with Sheep

So I took a brief hiatus to go to Paris, and that is why I missed a week of posting. I am sorry. I needed cheese, wine, macaroons, and croissants in the worst possible way, and as a consequence last week I was unable to focus on materials that cannot be ingested. I hope you understand. Now that I’m back, I’d like to kick things off by telling you about a fantabulous rammed earth building system being developed by, fittingly, a French company: Toulouse-based Meco’concept.
We don’t see many rammed earth buildings in …

METAL »

[3 Mar 2011 | One Comment | 6,156 views]
Metal Alloys you can Blow Mold like Plastic #biwinning

“I got tiger blood, man. My brain…fires in a way that is – I don’t know, maybe not from this particular terrestrial realm.” – Charlie Sheen
Until this week I thought that Charlie Sheen was your ordinary aging Hollywood actor. Really, if I thought about him at all, I assumed he was working on a TV show, staying tan/undergoing the occasional face lift, failing at some marriages, and I believed that human blood and maybe some high-quality cocaine were flowing through his veins. But now I have a completely different perspective.  Now I know that …

FIRE »

[28 Feb 2011 | No Comment | 4,697 views]
Better Living through Zinc Selenide: Making More Efficient Optical Fibers

Yesterday I was trying to accomplish something of vital importance on the Internet when I was stopped short in my digital tracks, having discovered to my shock and horror that I would be compelled to give my email address in order to cast a vote for some friends attempting to win a Crate & Barrell “ultimate dream wedding” competition.
Worried that I would become the recipient of incessant emails extolling the merit of elegant crystal decanters and pithy advice on how to choose the perfect shrimp fork, I decided to give out my fifteen-year old aol email address (which I have pretty much completely surrendered to …

FIRE, WOOD »

[22 Feb 2011 | No Comment | 3,333 views]
Alert! New Plastics Capable of Conducting Electricity

Isn’t it delightful when materials demonstrate unexpected capabilities? It pleased me to no end to discover that plastic, which is normally such a poor conductor of electricity that it is used to insulate copper wires, can practically lead Beethoven’s Ninth under the right conditions. The feeling is similar to what I imagine I’d experience upon finding out that a block of cheddar cheese can be MacGyvered into a supercomputer.

Image courtesy www.samcooks.com
Australian researchers at the University of Queensland and UNSW School of Physics have managed to manufacture cheap, strong, flexible and conductive plastic films by placing a thin film of metal onto a …

FIRE, WATER »

[17 Feb 2011 | 3 Comments | 7,893 views]
Solve the Future Energy Crisis: Coat Everything with Solar Paint

To me a solar cell is kind of like a Lamborghini: difficult to acquire, difficult to maintain, and unless you’re extremely lucky, only semi-functional. Today’s solar cells only convert a small percentage of the energy from the sun into electricity, and that’s before they get dirty.  “It’s challenging to get high efficiencies of conversion. For example, the basic single junction solar cell is fundamentally limited to an efficiency of 30 percent. So, if you made a perfect solar cell, the highest efficiency would be 30 percent. Currently, manufacturing cells with anything near that …

Uncategorized »

[14 Feb 2011 | One Comment | 1,897 views]
Fabricating a Toaster, Oyster Ecology, & Fungus Packing Materials – 3 TED Talks

Have you met TED?
No, I’m not playing wingman for Ted Mosby.  TED is a conference during which exceedingly smart, skillful people present their work in 20 minutes or less.  The presentations are published on the Internets and made available to the world at large for the low price of $free.99.  TED talks are an amazing source of inspiration and information – and some of them feature innovative materials! Therefore, in this post I present three TED talks that relate in some way to the content on ARCHITERIALS:
 1. Thomas Thwaites: How I built …

EARTH, FIRE »

[9 Feb 2011 | One Comment | 6,979 views]
FibreC: Thin Slab Concrete Siding that May Settle the Wood vs. Brick Debate

I grew up in Northern California, and I suppose I like the look of structures clad in wood because they’re comfortable and familiar. Wood works wonderfully in that earthquake-riddled part of the country because it’s flexible and can handle the forces imparted by the occasional seismic event better than a brick facade.  Brick is great, but it can’t be denied that it will undergo a complete nervous breakdown when placed under unusual stress. More often than not, wood faced with lateral forces takes a deep breath, squares its shoulders, and carries on with the vital business of protecting building interiors …

METAL, WOOD »

[7 Feb 2011 | 2 Comments | 6,845 views]
Materials in Motion: Super Elastic Plastic

 
I ordered a sample of super elastic plastic from Inventables, and when it came in I decided that it would be a lot easier to physically demonstrate how stretchy it is, rather than merely describing the elastic qualities of the material. Also the plastic came a lovely shade of pink (which may or may not have influenced my decision to order it in the first place) and I thought you might like to see the pinkness of it. All this is to say that I just made my first Materials in Motion video post, and …

METAL, WOOD »

[1 Feb 2011 | One Comment | 15,258 views]
Stretch Fabric Ceilings: Flexible, Light, and Fantastic

Depending on your approach, a ceiling can be a tricky proposition. Most of the time ceilings conceal the jumble of tangled wires, structure, ductwork, plumbing, and insulation that allow building systems to function. If you’re organized about it, you can leave the ceiling out altogether and simply expose the entrails. But if you’re looking to hide the mess up there, a gyp board, plaster or acoustic tile ceiling are probably among the systems you’re considering. But what happens when you want to do something a little different? What if you want your ceiling to glow?
I bring this …

EARTH »

[27 Jan 2011 | 2 Comments | 5,602 views]
A Dutch Machine that Lays Brick like an Unrolled Carpet

Every once in a while I like to find out about a new way to use a very old material, like brick for instance. Human beings have been working with brick at least since the times when the flooding of the Euphrates might engender the total destruction of the walls Gilgamesh built around his city, so the material definitely qualifies as ancient.  And I found out about a rather interesting way that a Dutch company, Tiger Stone, has been laying brick: they are rolling roads out like carpet.

I have no idea …

EARTH, WATER »

[24 Jan 2011 | No Comment | 7,782 views]
How to Grow a Chair out of Crystals!

“Nature shows us a beauty that exceeds our imagination. On the other hand, it contains a strength that is sometimes frightening. The forms of nature are unique and cannot be reproduced. This endows them with mysterious beauty and makes them fascinating to us”.
– Tokujin Yoshioka
I’m a big fan of sitting down in chairs, and like many Americans, I do it for hours at a time.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind laying down or standing up, or sitting cross-legged on the floor – those positions are nice and everything. …

FIRE, WATER »

[20 Jan 2011 | 2 Comments | 3,969 views]
Touch-Sensitive Paint that Switches the Lights On and Off!

Remember watching the “clap on! clap off!” commercials back in the day? I always thought that the idea that you could turn out the lights by clapping was pretty fantastic.  The idea seemed so fantastic, it would cause me to clap my hands in excitement and plunge myself into darkness.  No, I’m kidding – I’ve actually never been in a situation where “clap on! clap off!” was installed, but I bet it made a lot of people’s lives better. When it’s tough to get up, it’s nice to be able to alter your environment without walking over …

FIRE, WATER, WOOD »

[5 Jan 2011 | No Comment | 2,896 views]
Lightweight, 1/4″ Thick, Blast-Resistant Glass for the Masses!

Let’s assume for a moment that you are the Pope (because hey, this is the Internet and we can pretty much assume anything that suits our purposes, right?)  Okay, so let’s say your Holiness wants to head out of the Vatican and take a brief vacation at a villa that the Church happens to own on the Italian Sea Coast.  The ride out there shouldn’t be much of  problem danger-wise, because everybody knows that the “Popemobile” is bulletproof and “thicker than a 300 page novel” (Verrico).  But what if someone wants to cause trouble …

EARTH, WATER »

[3 Jan 2011 | No Comment | 4,704 views]
3D Printed Stabilized Sand: Air Hive Cooled by Evaporation

You don’t dance on a bee hive and sprint headlong into the house chased by a swarm of angry bees without developing a healthy respect for the sanctity of apidae habitat.  I didn’t mean to dance on the hive; I was only four years old and I had no idea it was even there until eighteen million bees erupted out of what I had thought was an innocuous stone-ringed mound of dirt.  The fact that such a small earthen bump could house that many insects is a testament to the …

METAL, WOOD »

[27 Dec 2010 | One Comment | 3,660 views]
Metaflex: Flexible Sheets that Bend Light, Making Objects Invisible

It’s the holiday season and people everywhere are wishing they had the power of invisibility.  Just imagine what you’d overhear at the office holiday party if you could mingle with your coworkers sight unseen!  You might also wish to disappear from time to time during Christmas dinner, in order to prevent being cornered by Aunt Sally or a similar relative given to detailed descriptions of bunion surgery and reports on the latest arrests and obituaries.  And maybe the power of invisibility could extend from people to objects; what would life be like if you …

FIRE, WOOD »

[14 Dec 2010 | One Comment | 7,162 views]
FIX IT! A Self-healing Polymer Material Embedded with a Fiber Optic Network

Stairs are challenging enough for adults at times, but I distinctly remember how hard it was to climb them when I was little.  When you are small in stature, 7″ high risers hit at mid-thigh and most of the time you have to take each stair on all fours.  Many of the epic, all-out “Alli versus the Stairs” battles ended with a small, defiant child celebrating wildly on the second floor, but sometimes things didn’t go my way.  On the days that the straight run, open tread, carpeted monster was …

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