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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   8 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Tech reviewer Marques Brownlee somehow got a hold of what is purportedly the screen for Apple's forthcoming iPhone 6. Made of sapphire rather than Gorilla Glass, the screen has been rumored to be a big step up in durability.

The material-minded will recall that Apple's current iPhone features sapphire covers for both the camera and the home button/fingerprint sensor, and in those roles it is crucial the material not be scratchable, otherwise the functionality would be compromised. But how will it hold up with a much larger surface area, comprising the entire 4.7" screen of the 6? On his YouTube channel MKBHD, Brownlee puts it to the test by working it over with a knife and a set of keys, before finally attempting to bend and break it. Have a look:


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   8 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Sometimes two tree branches will grow in such a way that they begin to touch. As the wind blows the branches and they rub together, the bark at the point of contact is gradually worn away, exposing the cambium. As the branches continue to grow, becoming thick enough to minimize their movement in the wind, bark can then re-grow around the point of contact, fusing the two branches together. This process is called inosculation, and in the 1920s a Swedish immigrant named Axel Erlandson observed it happening on his California farm.

Erlandson figured he'd give inosculation a go, and soon he was tinkering with sycamores to create geometric, conjoined shapes, symbols like hearts and lightning bolts, and weaving multiple trees in a circle to create baskets. Twenty years later, his property was covered with them.

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In 1945 Erlandson's wife and daughter, fresh off a vacation to Santa Cruz, observed that there was a lot of tourist traffic there along the coast, as opposed to their sleepy farm in Hilmar some 100 miles inland. Together they hatched the crazy idea that if they uprooted and moved Erlandson's arboreal creations to the coast, they could sell tickets to tourists to view the oddities.

Amazingly, they pulled it off. Erlandson dug the trees up, carefully pruned the roots and wrapped them in peat moss and burlap, and somehow trucked the things over to a 3.5-acre plot of land he purchased in Scotts Valley, some six miles outside of Santa Cruz. I was not able to find a record of the precise number of trees he transported, but it was enough to open the tourist attraction he called "The Tree Circus" in 1947.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   7 Jul 2014  |  Comments (1)

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In West Pomerania, Poland, stands a rather odd grove of pine trees. Some 400 of the trees have taken the peculiar shapes you see pictured, while the surrounding forest is filled with pines that have grown the ordinary way, true and straight.

The trees, collectively called "The Crooked Forest," were estimated to have been planted from 1930 to 1934, when Pomerania was still a German possession. And while nature-driven theories have been put forth as to why the trees are shaped this way—some think heavy snowfall caused the bends when the trees were sapling-aged—what seems more likely is that this is man-made intervention.

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The prevailing theory is that the trees were deliberately shaped, when seven to ten years old, for the purpose of eventually harvesting the naturally bent wood to construct something. Boats, furniture or some type of structure are the best guesses. On the nautical side, IFLScience's Justine Alford dug up this quote from a Navy & Marine article on 19th Century shipbuilding called "Wooden Vessel Ship Construction:"

Oaks from the areas of Northern Europe were fine for the development of long straight planking, but the gnarled English "Hedgerow" Oak was the best for the natural curved timbers used to strengthen the ship internally. Trees were even deliberately bent in certain ways so as to 'grow' a needed set of curved timbers. These curved timbers were known as 'compass' timbers.

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Posted by erika rae  |  27 Jun 2014  |  Comments (1)

BoneMusic-Skull.jpg

Bootlegged jazz records might be one of the last things that comes to mind when you think about Soviet Russia. But decades before the tape recorder made its groundbreaking debut, oppressed Russian music fans found a way to listen to their tunes using discarded X-ray films from the dumpsters and archives of hospitals.

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The music was pressed onto the discarded films using phonographs converted into very primitive CD burners for vinyl. (There's not a whole lot of information out there on how these hacked phonographs work, so we welcome any insight in the comments.) The copies were then cut into discs and a cigarette was used to burn a hole in the middle of the disc. Featuring the skeletal remains of the original substrate, the handmade discs were appropriately known as "bone music."

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Posted by core jr  |  26 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

MaterialInnovation-ProductDesign-COMP.jpgClockwise from top left: Glider, Kammok; Curface composite panels, Adam Fairweather; Microbial Home Probe, Phillips Design; Bogobrush, photo by Mike Glinski

While the Internet is a seemingly limitless resource when it comes to research or reference, sometimes it's nice to peruse the information in print. Short of actually including samples of ABS, flyknit, etc., Material ConneXion's new book series serves as a handy guide to what's new and what's next in materials for architects and designers (the samples, of course, are available at their materials libraries). Written with an audience of design students and professionals in mind, the first two volumes, on Architecture and Product Design, were published by Thames & Hudson just last week. (The latter, pictured above, includes a preface by our own Allan Chochinov.)

From cutting-edge technological advances to novel applications of tried-and-true methodologies, co-authors Andrew Dent, Ph.D, and Leslie Sherr present a well-curated selection of materials in an impressive series of highly visual, broadly informative compendia. According to the press release, the books also "include a Materials Directory that provides insight on additional materials that are part of the Material ConneXion library and that can be used as substitutes for the projects featured." We had a chance to speak to Dent on the occasion of the launch.

Core77: How did you determine which projects to include in this book? Did you make a conscious effort to include a diverse range of projects in each of the six sections?

Andrew Dent: Diversity was essential to demonstrate our thesis, that the material trends we see are independent of product type. The decision about which projects to feature was determined by a group at Material ConneXion along with my co-author Leslie Sherr. Though we looked at predominantly very recent projects, where an slightly older project could exemplify an arc in a material type's trajectory, it was included. Clear presentation of material innovation was essential, though it should not detract from the overall value of design.

The inclusion of Iron Man 2 body armor, in particular, points to noncommercial (or at least non-traditional) applications of new technologies, yet it also suggests a potential use case for 3D printing, while student projects, concepts and prototypes depict possibilities that may be years away from becoming a reality. As a resource and reference, do you have the sense that the Material Innovation series may shape the future of design (i.e. by introducing designers to new or alternative materials) as much as it documents it in the present?

Our hope is that the series opens designers' eyes to the value of material innovation and the range of material possibilities that exist beyond what they currently know (the "unknown unknowns"). We also hope that it can show how materials can jump product type, from say consumer electronics to automotive, or from sports equipment to home appliances. This cross-pollination gives designers greater freedom to design, and offers the potential to stretch existing beliefs about how a product should be.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  25 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

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The hard part about killing people is that sometimes they kill you back. (Just ask Prince Oberyn.) So at some point, some primitive pugilist concluded it would be better if one was not within arm's reach of the person one was trying to kill.

One way you can do this is to kill your opponent with kindness. But this can take an unsatisfyingly long time. A more immediate way to kill someone from afar is with a ranged weapon.

Spears and slings were relatively simple to make, but no civilization could gain an enduring military advantage with such basic and duplicable weapons. The earliest example of an object that required both design and manufacturing know-how, and which led to a tremendously decisive advantage, was probably the 13th Century Mongol bow.

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Bows and arrows have been around for tens of thousands of years—depending on who you listen to, we may have had them 64,000 freaking years ago—but the Mongol bow was a standout. First off, it was made out of something like the carbon fiber of that era, a complicated-to-make sandwich of horn, wood or bamboo, and strands of animal sinew all laminated together with animal glue. The horn provided the rigidity, the wood or bamboo provided the flex, and the elastic sinew laminated to the wood helped store potential energy as the string was drawn.

The traditional problem with composite bows was that they tended to delaminate when wet, as water dissolved the animal glue holding them together. Since the Mongols didn't like the idea that they would have to surrender if it was raining out, and throwing arrows by hand didn't seem terribly practical, they either developed or stole the technology to produce a waterproof lacquer. By coating their bows with this stuff, they effectively made them all-weather. And the results were simply devastating.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  24 Jun 2014  |  Comments (6)

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This is nuts. An inventive Russian YouTuber has figured out how to turn plastic bottles into string, using purely mechanical means. After "unraveling" a single bottle he's left with what appear to be several yards' worth of filament, which he then uses to bind things together. Hitting the resultant plastic twine with a heat gun causes it to partially melt and shrink, more or less fusing it into place.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  23 Jun 2014  |  Comments (2)

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True industrial design seeks out problems that can be solved with objects. The more common the problem, and the easier it is to produce the item you've designed to solve it, the more successful you'll be. And the Holy Grail, of course, is to find that common problem that no one's solved yet.

So here's a great example of a simple, monomaterial product design that's become a tremendous business success by addressing an unmet need in the kitchen. When it comes to storing food, we've got Ziploc bags, Tupperware, plastic wraps and aluminum foils, which are good at storing most things. But what they're lousy at preserving is a fruit or vegetable that's been cut in half; you've undoubtedly thrown away half of something because you couldn't use it all up in time.

Enter Food Huggers, which are nothing more than little silicone discs molded with a lip and an undercut.

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By making them in four sizes—which nest for storage, by the way—industrial designers Michelle Ivankovic and marketer Adrienne McNicholas have covered all of the bases, whether you're looking to save a small or large chunk of fruit or vegetable.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  23 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

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At least one inventor of a famous machinegun has spiritually grappled with having invented a tool for killing. But Stephanie Kwolek, a scientist for DuPont who passed away last week at the age of 90, accidentally invented something that protected people from firearms: Kevlar.

Carnegie Mellon grad and chemist Kwolek was a female pioneer in the sciences. She began working at DuPont in 1946, an era when women were expected to be housewives. By the 1960s she was trying to develop an ultra-strong fiber that could be incorporated into radial tires, and created a polymer that, in liquid form, at first appeared to be disappointing.

But she persevered and had her concoction run through a lab spinneret, which turns liquids into fibers. To her and her team's surprise, when the resultant fibers were exposed to stress tests, they would not break at the point that more common nylon would. Further investigation revealed that what Kwolek had created was five times stronger than steel.

When she brought the report to management, "they didn't fool around," Kwolek said in a 2007 interview. "They immediately assigned a whole group to work on different aspects."

DuPont knew they had a materials hit on their hands and threw a reported $500 million in development money at it over the years. And while the resultant material, Kevlar, did make its way into the tires it was originally targeting, by the '70s it had found its lifesaving application as the key component of bulletproof vests.

Kwolek, who put in 40 years of service at DuPont and retired in 1986, racked up a host of accolades: She garnered both the Lemelson-M.I.T. Lifetime Achievement Award and the National Medal of Technology, and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, the National Women's Hall of Fame and the Plastics Hall of Fame at the National Plastics Center and Museum.

But for every medal she was able to place around her neck, there were and are countless men and women around the world who can strap on vests woven with the fiber she created. A local newspaper reporting on Kwolek's passing puts this in perspective:

"When you think about what she has done, it's incredible. There's literally thousands and thousands of people alive because of her," said Ron McBride, former manager of the Kevlar Survivors' Club, a not-for-profit partnership between DuPont and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The group has documented 3,200 lives saved through use of Kevlar in body armor.
McBride is a former chief of police in Ashland, Kentucky. A vest with Kevlar saved the life of his son, who was serving as a naval operative in Iraq.
"She could look back on her life and say, 'Yeah, I made a difference,'" he said.

Kwolek passed away at the age of 90.

For those interested in learning more, here's a video Called "Stephanie Kwolek - Curiosity and the Discover of Kevlar," put together as part of the Chemical Heritage Foundation's "Women in Chemistry" series:

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Posted by erika rae  |  20 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

HangerAnimals-Lead.jpg

It's probably not what London-based artist David Mach has in mind, but I can't help but imagine that the angst-ridden expressions of the sculpture in his ongoing series "Coathangers" resembles my own when I encounter a mass of tangled metal hangers. Known for taking unexpected materials and creating larger-than-life sculptures from them, the artist takes the simple abstracted form of metal hangers and combines them into familiar silhouettes.

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To render the solid outline of each sculpture, Mach wraps the hangers around a plastic mold of the form, which is subsequently coated in nickel. The overall effect is that the figures seem to be fighting their way fro static-y striations into a more solid state of being.

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Posted by Christie Nicholson  |  18 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

Metalprocessing-Dysprosium_Neodymium.jpg

The creation of metals is an often forgotten but critical business involved in most modern innovations. And since startup fever is all over innovative techniques, startups are starting to spread to those slower-moving industries that can support the "disruptors." Infinium is one such startup. They've found a cheap and environmentally-clean way to make the rare earth metals neodymium and dysprosium. And these metals are important because they make magnets that are integral in the generators found in wind turbines and electric car motors.

The polluting problem is in the process of taking metal oxides (metal bound to oxygen, among other elements) and isolating the pure metal by placing the oxides in molten salt while an electric current runs through the mixture. The problem is that this process releases significant amounts of carbon dioxide. So what the researchers at Infinium have done is replace the carbon electrode, which creates the electric current and the CO2, with a ceramic material made of zirconium oxide, to obviate the carbon emissions.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  18 Jun 2014  |  Comments (2)

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When studying industrial design, you'll find most programs will have you build at least a couple of pieces of furniture, whether you're a Furniture Design major or not. But the main output always seems to be in wood or metal, with most programs simply too short on time to teach the art of upholstery.

So it's helpful, we think, for the aspiring but inexperienced furniture designer to see how upholstered furniture comes together. Your program has undoubtedly taught you rudimentary wood-joining, and maybe you've learned to weld and finish with an angle grinder, but there's an entire science of straps, webbing, springs, nails, tacks, foam, glue, fabric, buttons and thread you may have never seen. Here are three different pieces being assembled by Shanghai-based Novaz Furniture.

First up, a bed frame with an upholstered headboard and footboard. It starts off with the woodwork and glue-ups you're probably already familiar with, but the second half covers the upholstery:

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  17 Jun 2014  |  Comments (1)

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Nitinol is a metal alloy, and its name stems from its roots: This blend of nickel and titanium was developed at America's Naval Ordnance Laboratory in the 1950s. The stuff is capable of exhibiting a surprising level of shape memory when exposed to a temperature differential. Check it out:

Product design applications, anyone? I've got a pretty brilliant one: Make headphone cables out of it. That way, if you're in Alaska and they get tangled, all you've got to do is fly to Brazil and they'll magically unkink themselves!

Via Sploid

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  17 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

magic-foam.gif

There is a graphic design element to tennis courts, (American) football fields and basketball courts, with highly visible lines indicating boundaries and distances. These are fixed in place, as service lines, end zones and free throw lines aren't meant to move.

Soccer, though, has a unique problem that can't be solved by fixed lines: When a player is fouled, he's awarded a free kick from whatever spot on the field the foul occurred. The opposing team is allowed to assemble a defensive wall of players at a distance of ten yards from the kicker. The problem is that people cheat. The ref sets both the spot of the free kick and the site of the wall, and as soon as he's not looking, the two may surreptitiously creep towards each other to improve their chances.

Which is why for this year's World Cup, you'll see the referees carrying an aerosol can filled with a white foamy substance, and they'll spray this on the pitch to clearly mark visual boundaries for the both the kicker and the wall. Seconds later the line mysteriously disappers. (Hardcore footie fans have already seen this spray as it's been in action for years, but this is the first World Cup where it's been used.) So what is this stuff, shaving cream?

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Nope. This "vanishing spray" is called 9.15 Fair Play, patented by an Argentinean journalist named Pablo C. Silva. Silva was playing footie in a local league and had a crucial free kick of his blocked by a defensive wall--one that had rushed him to close the distance to a mere three meters. "The referee didn't book anyone and didn't do anything," Silva fumed to The Independent. "We lost the game, and driving home later with a mixture of anger and bitterness, I thought that we must invent something to stop this."

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  13 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Saitama-based Masanori Oji's interests are as broad as his skillset. The handicrafts designer has experience in architecture and graphics as well as product, and after attending a workshop at a brass foundry to learn about the material, it wasn't long until he proposed a series of product designs to the company behind the foundry.

That company is Futagami, one of the oldest brass foundries in Japan, and one that's produced everything from ship fittings to Buddhist altar equipment. In collaboration with Oji they've released a beautiful line of housewares, like the dope bottle openers you see up top, and these gorgeous sets of chopstick rests below.

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They also produce rests for Western cutlery...

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...in addition to the cutlery itself, which is primarily brass, but silver-tipped at the business end.

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Posted by Christie Nicholson  |  11 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Would you like ketchup with that Ford Focus? No joke. Ford announced yesterday that it will partner with Heinz to possibly use tomato fibers to make cars from a new form of bio-plastic.

Okay, it's not about engines or doors made from tomatoes. But it is about taking dried tomato skins and turning them into those containers in the car where we dump our loose change, hair ties and other random objects. The skins could also become the wiring brackets used in a Ford vehicle.

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Their goal is to develop "a strong, lightweight material that meets our vehicle requirements, while at the same time reducing our overall environmental impact," said Ellen Lee, plastics research technical specialist for Ford.

It all started two years ago when Ford began collaborating with Heinz, The Coca-Cola Company, Nike Inc. and Procter & Gamble to develop a plastic made form 100 percent plant-based material. The intention is to have a far lower environmental impact than we get from the current petroleum-based materials.

Heinz stepped up with innovative ways to repurpose the peels, stems and seeds from the two million tons of tomatoes they use annually to produce their number one product: ketchup.

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Posted by erika rae  |  10 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

Hoopties-LuchaComp.jpg"029: Lucha Libre"

There's something glow-y about a person who truly loves what they're doing. For Jennifer Beatty, the glow comes through in her upcycled art. She managed to tie-in her two passions into one 100-piece series titled "100 Hoopties"—a hooptie being "any car that meets the following: a) Driver must enter car through passenger side; b) Three different brand and size tires (three of them missing hubcaps); c) Exhaust is held up by half a clothes hanger, other half replaces the antenna..." as defined on the ever-entertaining Urban Dictionary. Beatty gives us her own working definition for the poster project:

  • A bicycle with at least one part dangling off that has duct tape holding it together and/or makes you aware of its impending arrival by the volume of the squeal coming from the petrified brake pads or lack thereof.
  • A Huffy or Murray mountain bike with three broken spokes and the shift lever unattached, commonly ridden by New York City food delivery riders.

Hoopties-Weezer.jpg"023: Weezer"

Hoopties-Lemon.jpg"020: Volkswagen

If you couldn't tell, Beatty is both an avid cyclist and a graphic designer, and she combines her passions in her project, recreating famous graphics ranging from movie posters and works of fine art to video games and logos.

Hoopties-PacMan.jpg"030: Pac-Man"

Starting on April 7, 2014, Beatty started creating a new composition every day and plans to keep it up for 100 days—meaning this series will see its end on July 15. This project is one in a group of "100 Days" assignments taken on by the 2014 Masters in Branding graduate students at the School of Visual Arts.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   5 Jun 2014  |  Comments (4)

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Fifty years ago, most things you'd find in a refrigerator, like milk, ketchup or mayonnaise, were all in glass containers. Nowadays those items are mostly contained in plastic. Plastic is cheap, it doesn't shatter when dropped, and if you think about any jar you ever had trouble opening, it's almost never a plastic one.

The benefits of glass, on the other hand, is that they're more sanitary, re-usable, have better heat resistance and are safe to microwave. So Japanese manufacturer Hakuyo Glass has been studying plastic-vs.-glass uptake in the kitchen and concluded that if they can design glass jars that are easier to open, they can win part of the market back.

To do this, they consulted Tokyo-based designer Noriko Hashida, who heads up her own ID firm and is also a professor at Shibaura Institute of Technology's College of Engineering and Design. Hashida went all-out in her research, hooking test subjects of all ages up to an electromyograph to precisely measure their muscle movement as they opened a variety of glass designs. By studying where on a package force is applied, she concluded that a parallelogram-shaped cross-section was ideal and provided the best leverage. As a former structural package designer I'll say it doesn't look too shabby, either.

Hakuyo Glass has filed a patent for Ms. Hashida's design, and it's expected they'll soon make their way to Japanese store shelves to hold jam and pickled products.

Via Nikkei Technology

Posted by Christie Nicholson  |   4 Jun 2014  |  Comments (2)

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Think that pure white, organic cotton tee shirt is environmentally friendly? Hm, most likely not. People might jump to the bleaching chemicals and yes, those are toxic and can be polluting. But another problem is the huge amounts of energy required to bleach out the natural color of cotton. But a new study, published this week in the Journal of Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Resarch, has a solution.

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Currently the cotton industry requires bleaching the natural cotton fiber with hydrogen peroxide at extremely high temperatures. We've grown to love bright whites but this process compromises the quality of the cotton material. And when we realize that there are 7.3 billion pounds of cotton produced in just the U.S. this process uses too much energy for it to be sustainable.

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Posted by erika rae  |   4 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

BacteriaArt-Lead2.jpgStephen Fry, in bacteria form

Fan art is one thing, but bacteria-cultivated portraits capturing the faces of the world's most well-known? That's straight-up dedication—not to mention innovation. Microbiologist-turned-artist Zachary Copfer has devised a way to induce bacteria growth in predicted patterns to form some familiar faces.

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BacteriaArt-Comp6.jpgSee if you can match the bacteria to the celebrity—you can see if you're correct here.

By exposing specified sections of microscopic organisms to radiation, Copfer is able to create temporary halftone portraits in Petri dishes and other scientific vessels. In some instances, like Stephen Fry's, the image is made up of bacteria that invaded the subject's body in real life.

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Posted by erika rae  |   3 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

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For some reason, tea manufacturers seem keen on the idea that thoughtfully worded phrases of motivation are the cherry on top of our drinking experience. Maybe there's hope in the idea of the tiny, squares of paper inspiration that physically keep our tea bags grounded have some sort of psychological correlation to the mantras we use to get through the day. (Whew, deep.) I'd much rather see a rad use of packaging materials than some sweet sentiment that I look forward to tossing out. So I'm all for BOH's clever use of the steeping process with their Chamomile tea bags.

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Using edible tea ink, the brand created an eye-catching tea bag with a clear "before and after." Pre-water, the tea bags feature a silhouette of shapes and animals that are anything but relaxing: a grimacing grizzly, a taloned bird, lightening projecting from a storm cloud and more. Give the bag a dip, let it steep for a bit and the silhouettes soften, the grizzly's face turning into a smile, a song bird appears in lieu of its predatory predecessor and the lightening dissolves. The ad agency behind the packaging concept M&C Saatchi, is focused more on marketing solutions, with the interactive design being a bonus—which is why this video makes sense (not to mention it's a good excuse to see the bags in action):

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   2 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Back in '09 we showed you an Ultimate Factories clip of an IKEA factory revealing what's inside their lightweight tabletops. That clip has since been rendered unembeddable, so we'll grab the new code and show it here:

As you can see, by adapting the technology used by hollow-core door manufacturers, Ikea was able to create a lightweight, yet reasonably sturdy tabletop surface at a pricepoint that attracted consumers.

The honeycomb construction isn't only in their tabletops, of course; anytime you see something chunky at Ikea that seems lighter than it ought, there's probably honeycomb inside. UK-based Physicist Lindsay R. Wilson—a man who built "a prototype double-layer luminescent solar concentrator module" for TU Eindhoven--is the kind of guy who has high-end optical imaging technology lying around his house, so after he recently bought a soon-to-be-obsolete Expedit, he X-rayed the thing to show you what's inside:

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Posted by Christie Nicholson  |  28 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Water might be good for our bodies, but it's terrible for our stuff. Our smartphones, the walls in our home, the precious documents we're carrying—water can ruin all of it. So when a material is created that can repel water so perfectly that whatever it covers essentially never gets wet, we take notice.

This kind of material is called superhydrophobic. That means that water droplets remain in their spherical shape, sit on top of the material, and then roll off of it like pearls from a necklace. The droplets never really touch the material in the first place. Check out the photo below. The angle between the bottom of the droplet sphere and the surface will be more than 120 degrees. If it were 180 degrees the droplet would not touch the surface.

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There have been many variations of superhydrophobic materials and most involve embedding structures within the material that prevent the water from coming into contact. For instance in a recent study researchers from Brigham Young University used material that either had microscopic long ridges or posts (see photos below) that prevented the droplet from penetrating through the fibers.

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Posted by erika rae  |  22 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

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There are all kinds of ways to take in the colorful history of American car culture: museums, photo series, coffee table books, a tour through a decrepit GM factory, the list goes on. Diehard automobile enthusiasts are likely already familiar with the motor vehicle memorabilia known as fordite imagery, a rock-hard material that's made from years' worth of automobile paint that dripped onto racks in the oven of the paint shop. Because of the oven's extremely high temperatures, the layers of paint were baked time and time again (sometimes over the course of up to 100 trips, according to Fordite.com), hardening into rock-like formations. The fordite growths were only removed once they became a nuisance to production.

Fordite-Lead.jpgUncut fordite (left) and a group of polished specimens (right)

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Today, the paint is applied with an electrostatic process in which the color is magnetized to the car bodies, making fordite—also called motor agate—a waste product of the past.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  22 May 2014  |  Comments (3)

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When he was introducing the iPhone 5C, Jonathan Ive referred to it as "beautifully, unapologetically plastic." The subtext being that plastic, these days, is a material whose use ordinarily warrants an apology. But if we go back in time, it is interesting to see how some of the earliest industrial designers to work the material first wrangled its newness into a form consumers could appreciate.

0fiskamin-002.JPGPhoto by Philippe Gueissaz

Even for those of you designers who took History of Industrial Design as students, there may be a gap in your design timeline knowledge. In design school many of us were taught that Massimo Vignelli's plastic tableware for Heller, circa 1964, was the first such mass-market design success; but in fact we have to go back a bit further in time, and move north from Italy to Finland, to find an earlier example of a plastic diningware design sensation.

By 1961 Fiskars had already been in the metals business for over 300 years, starting off as an ironworks and gradually transitioning to the refining of steel. But when the then-futuristic material known as plastic came around, the company saw opportunity. The question was, What to do with the stuff? They certainly didn't have the expertise in it that they did with metal, but they did have a talented industrial designer named Olof Bäckström.

Bäckström was tasked with creating tableware from plastics, specifically melamine. But he wouldn't do it alone. As we saw in our History of Braun Design, Dieter Rams worked alongside new hires plucked from the Ulm School of Design. Fiskars, too, availed themselves of locally-available, young design talent: Bäckström had encountered two gifted designers, one from each gender, at the Helsinki School of Art and Design in Mattias Ingman and Gittan Landström. After helping them secure jobs at Fiskars, he now had his design team in place.

The result of their collaboration was Fiskamin, a line of over 130 pieces of tableware including virtually everything you could possibly put onto a dining table: Plates, bowls, cups, mugs, saucers, serving platters, marmalade jars, egg cups, ashtrays, et cetera.

0fiskamin-003.jpgFiskamin collector and author Mikko Aalto, photographed by Lauri Rotko

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Posted by erika rae  |  20 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

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It might only be a concept, but this knife design from National Taipei University Of Technology student Chia-yu Yeh is something for our inner sci-fi and culinary nerds to get excited about. The Lightsaber Knife was an entry in this year's Electrolux Design Lab competition and brings in a few sci-fi aspects past its namesake, starting with a "liquidmetal" blade that can be interchanged with the press of a button.

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The tool features a fingerprint scanner that identifies the user—helping keep sharp objects out of the hands of children. Just imagine the damage they could do with a bit of Force:

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