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[4 Aug 2011 | One Comment | 6,292 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 …

EARTH, FIRE »

[3 Jun 2011 | One Comment | 6,361 views]
Glowcrete: Luminescent Concrete by Vergelabs

There’s something magic about things that glow – they’re suprising and delightful.  Think of that moment at the aquarium when you turn a corner and encounter a darkened tank illuminated by a school of luminous fish darting hither and yon, or nights spent staring up at a bedroom ceiling covered with constellations of glowing stick-on stars.
VergeLabs, an architecture and design practice based in the United Arab Emirates founded as a partnership between Ginger Krieg Dosier and Michael Dosier, brought some of that magic to concrete with their development of Glowcrete.

Image courtesy Vergelabs
The researchers used phosphorescent …

FIRE »

[27 Apr 2011 | No Comment | 2,736 views]
MIT Scientists Enlist an Army of Viruses to Improve Solar Cell Efficiency

For a long time I believed all viruses to be evil due to their pernicious habits: causing common colds, infecting people and spreading influenza and other viral diseases, and wiping out hard drives with grim efficiency.  A group of researchers at MIT decided to give viruses a chance to show a softer side, and they found out that “going viral” can benefit solar cell technology by improving its efficiency by one third.
Scientists have been working with carbon nanotubes (essentially, rolled up sheets of graphene) to encourage solar cells to convert …

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 …

FIRE, WATER »

[14 Jul 2010 | No Comment | 1,212 views]
Singing Acoustic Fibers can Hear their Environment

Every once in a while in the course of my quest to discover materials with architectural potential, I stumble across something so interesting that I emit an audible yelp akin to the bellow of an excited elephant seal, drop whatever I’m doing, and write a post about it.  Unfortunately this tendency has resulted in the accidental smashing of several objects, including one unfortunate incident where I dropped an ancient and rather valuable Ming vase on an unforgiving tile floor with predictably catastrophic consequences. 
Yesterday I learned that researchers at MIT have developed functional plastic fibers that can detect …

FIRE, WATER »

[1 Jul 2010 | One Comment | 2,140 views]
Energy Recovery Wheels

The content of this post can be summed up in two lines from the song Wheel in the Sky, written and recorded by Journey in 1978, which I hope is now as firmly stuck in your head as it is in mine:
“The wheel in the sky keeps on turnin’ / I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow”
Well, okay, I mostly know where I’ll be tomorrow (at the office) but there are a few hours between work and going to sleep tomorrow night that I’m going to play by ear.

Image credit www.moonbeammcqueen.wordpress.com
So now onward to our …

FIRE »

[1 Mar 2010 | One Comment | 3,451 views]
New Light-trapping Material Boosts Solar Cell Efficiency

Silicon solar cells are popping up in lots of places these days – they’re powering traffic lights and security cameras, they’re clinging in neatly ordered arrays to rooftops, and they’ve even been spotted in all their sparkly blue splendor on the occasional backpack (where they are used to power mp3 players, fancy calculators, and cell phones). 

Image credit www.devicedaily.com
Here’s how solar cells work at the most basic level:  photons (units of light) hit the surface of the cells and the light energy is quickly absorbed by the semiconductor material.  The incoming energy knocks electrons loose from the silicon, and when that …

EARTH, FIRE, WATER »

[23 Feb 2010 | One Comment | 1,269 views]
Turn up that Bloom Box!

I know most people have been living in caves for the past couple of months like brown bears hibernating over the winter, and nobody has been interested in much other than sleeping and eating the occasional beetle.  That’s fine – and completely normal – but spring is coming and before you know it, everyone will be compelled to emerge to gather salmon and frolic among the blossoming flowers.  In fact you might consider coming out of the cave a little early this year because this February something has already started to bloom:  fuel cells.
After eight …

FIRE, WOOD »

[12 Feb 2010 | 4 Comments | 7,223 views]
Intel Hexapod Robot Spider!

Kids these days.  You never know what they’re going to come up with next, but you can bet they’ll post whatever it is on YouTube.  In my day we made videos with cameras the size of Volkswagens, walking uphill both ways in the snow talking on 12″ cellphones that took D batteries.  We certainly didn’t sit around building robots out of Intel processors and spare parts.  But this is the second decade of the new millennium, and that is why it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Matt Bunting, an electrical engineering …

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