Engineers at the University of Maryland in the US have developed a technique that significantly increases the strength of wood – making it even stronger than many titanium alloys. The resulting natural material could be used to replace steel in projects such as cars, aeroplanes and buildings.
The process involves removing the wood’s lignin – the organic polymer that makes wood rigid – and compressing the leftover material under a mild heat, causing the cellulose fibres to become tightly compact. As a result, the wood fibres form strong hydrogen bonds, which increases its strength while making it thinner and lighter than its original form.
The team believe this method could lead to the production of lightweight, high-performance structural materials made out of various species of wood. “Soft woods like pine or balsa, which grow fast and are more environmentally friendly, could replace slower-growing but denser woods like teak in furniture or buildings,” said research leader Liangbing Hu.
With increasing concerns over diminishing resources and ecological footprints, innovative new approaches to existing natural materials are more important than ever, especially for large-scale applications such as in the construction industry.
See CMF Industry View: Architecture & Spaces and Carbon-Negative Building Material Made of CO2 for more eco-conscious building materials. For more on engineered wood and other materials addressing the need for strength and durability, see Super Materials: New Innovations.
Vivid shades of yellow are proving a popular colour choice for commercial interiors. Daringly applied to floors, walls and ceilings, the bold hue is transforming retail, work and public spaces into friendly and optimistic environments. We highlight the latest most inspiring examples.
As an unconventional choice for commercial interior spaces, variations of yellow in different tones, textures and finishes could be further explored for other eye-catching applications in architecture and interiors, or for different sectors such as packaging and product design.
A new London exhibition by British accessories and prop designer Fred Butler explores chromotherapy (colour therapy) as an antidote to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and the negative effects of urban living, presenting a series of colourful and immersive installations.
Designed to promote self-care and wellbeing, Harmonics in Space considers how colour, light, shape and sound can create a therapeutic environment; a space to stand, breathe and reconnect the mind, away from the mundane everyday.
It features a collection of large-scale three-dimensional sculptures called ‘healing spheres’ in stimulating bright colour gradients. Visitors are invited to put their heads inside and experience a range of colourful lights.
“The benefit of this type of light and colour therapy enables an interplay between the conscious and unconscious levels of the psyche, stimulating the imagination and releasing creativity,” says Butler.
A soundtrack also accompanies the exhibition, with visitors able to listen to a selection of reflective and contrasting compositions as they progress through the space.
The exhibition aligns with a growing number of immersive environments that aim to optimise and engage multiple senses. See ChromaYoga: Sensory Immersion for Exercise and Elevating Senses in Transformative Spaces for further examples.
Take a look at our A/W 19/20 Colour Direction Playful Optimism for inspiration on uplifting colour hues and immersive spaces.
Harmonics in Space is on at London’s Now Gallery and runs until April 29.
International scientists and researchers are exploiting the capabilities of nanofibres and nanotechnology to produce a new generation of high-performance yarns for clothing and protective armour.
For more materials addressing the need for strength, durability and high performance, see Super Materials: New Innovations. For technical developments within sports apparel and equipment, see ISPO Munich 2018.
Held in London (February 6-8), the Surface Design Show spotlights the latest developments in laminates, conglomerates, textures and finishes across a vast array of materials from Europe’s most innovative manufacturers.
Among international heavyweights such as Finsa were many smaller brands, including start-ups, offering more experimental decorative surfaces with less-defined applications.
Here, we highlight some of the most interesting developments to emerge at the 2018 edition.
US tech company Dell has co-released a limited-edition jewellery collection made of gold harvested from electronic waste. The precious metal used in the Circular range of bracelets, rings, cufflinks and earrings has been reclaimed from the circuit boards of discarded phones and laptops.
Dell has collected e-waste for over a decade as part of its commitment to sustainable production. However, the company has only recently developed a means of extracting the gold from old gadgets without using the destructive chemicals commonly used in the recycling process.
The recycled material is smelted into gold bars and delivered to partnering jewellery brands to shape into ornate, wearable designs. The Circular collection was devised to encourage the public to appreciate the value and potential use of electronic waste, as well as to promote active recycling.
The harvested gold will be primarily reused in new products, helping the company pursue a circular supply chain. Dell is currently developing a pilot line of around six million new circuit boards that feature this recycled gold, and aims to later use the material in other forthcoming devices.
Read our Design Direction Build for more on an emerging aesthetic that embraces waste materials as precious resources and pays homage to an inherited digital age. Also read Activate for more on how the natural world is informing closed-loop production, and guiding an active consumer market to regenerate pollutive materials into innovative product.
In a bid to raise children’s awareness of plastic waste, recycling and sustainability, Dutch start-up Ecobirdy is transforming unwanted plastic toys into kids’ furniture.
According to the brand, 80% of plastic toys end up in landfill or incinerators, while 90% have a lifespan of just six months. In response, it has developed a system that encompasses the collection and recycling of unwanted plastic toys, right through to the design and production of furniture pieces.
Unveiled at Maison & Objet last week (January 19-23), the first collection includes soft-formed chairs, round-edged tables, rhino-shaped lamps and a storage box shaped like a kiwi bird. The pieces are made out of Ecothylene – a new material developed by Ecobirdy that’s 100% recycled plastic.
The plastic toys are separated by colour, cleaned and grinded, resulting in pure, chemical-free flakes ready for moulding. The speckled finish of each item aims to help children recognise a recycled material, with the colours from their toys still being visible.
To introduce kids to the circular economy and raise awareness of plastic recycling, a storybook and school programme have been designed to accompany the process. Children are then invited to donate unwanted toys and are informed when their items have been recycled into new furniture. See Rethinking Plastics: Circular Consumption for other initiatives.
Ecobirdy hopes that increasing children’s consciousness of plastic waste will help them contribute to a sustainable future. See Gen Alpha: Childhood Rebooted for more insight into this generation.
The Made of Air material is made from waste biomass that has absorbed CO2 during its lifetime (plants naturally absorb CO2 by photosynthesis). It’s baked in an oxygen-free oven to form a stable carbon char – a controlled process that means the material generates negative carbon emissions due to absorbing more carbon dioxide than it emits.
The result is a black, fire-retardant material that can be shaped into panels, reformed and recycled. Although it’s in the early stages of development, the material can be adapted to suit different applications, such as a replacement for fillers in products like plasterboard or for whole material products like cladding tiles.
The studio believes it has the potential to replace existing CO2-producing materials used in the construction industry, such as MDF board, while also acting as a carbon-negative material agent to help cut down the carbon footprint of building projects.
Creatives are increasingly looking to tackle climate change by devising positive solutions that combat pollution. For more pollution-absorbing surfaces, see Considered Environment. For more on environmentally conscious building materials, check out our CMF Industry View: Architecture & Spaces report.
Faced with the ever-increasing global issue of non-biodegradable waste and limited resources, a growing number of designers and researchers are developing sustainable material alternatives using industry waste. Here, we highlight exciting projects combining food industry byproducts with innovative material developments.
Colour & Materials editor Lauren Chiu gives an overview of three TV new launches from CES 2018, the world’s largest consumer electronics show.
This year sees the arrival of intriguing alternatives to typical TV screens. Now they’re bigger, brighter and even bendable – suggesting the days of the fixed screen may be numbered.
LG presented a larger, more flexible update to the prototype OLED display shown in 2016. The 65" screen be rolled up tightly and hidden in a compact box when not in use. Another innovation making screens disappear is Sony’s 4K Ultra Short Throw Projector (LSPX-A1), which looks like a sleek piece of furniture, featuring an artificial marble top, aluminium frame and wooden shelf. The luxury item ships in spring 2018 for $30,000.
Samsung introduced an impressive 146” television concept called The Wall. It uses ultra-bright MicroLED screen technology and is also modular, allowing it to be increased in size for an at-home cinema experience.
CES ran from January 9-12 in Las Vegas. Look out for our full coverage of the event, publishing on January 22.
British designer Stephen Johnson has developed an adhesive with the consistency of dough that can be used to bond a number of different materials. The colourful putty offers a fun alternative to standard glues.
Made with a mixture of synthetic and organic matter, Play can be used on wood, glass, marble and metal, and is strong enough to hold furniture pieces together. The adhesive mimics the children’s modelling compound Play-Doh and was developed to look and behave in the same way, but becomes incredibly rigid once cured.
The designer has produced a collection of tables to showcase the material in use. Various pieces of Play are used to fix wooden and metal legs to tabletops, squashed playfully into the joints. A series of lampshades explore it as a decorative element, with chunks of the material randomly layered and pressed to create a hand-built, haphazard surface.
The adhesive’s handle gives a unique aesthetic to products by displaying the maker’s fingerprints. See our A/W 19/20 Materials Focus report Sacred Earth for more on free-form craft.
Play aims to replicate the creative and innovative freedom explored by children when using modelling clay, encouraging users to create on a larger scale with more diverse materials.
We are seeing an increasing number of playful surfaces and spaces that invite interaction. See Playful Optimism: Materials for more directions relating to this theme, as well as Gen Alpha: Childhood Rebooted.
Samsung has launched a mobile app for Android users that helps people with colour vision deficiency (CVD) – commonly known as colour blindness – adjust the settings of its QLED TVs to suit their specific needs. The SeeColors app aims to optimise TV viewing for a more accurate and vibrant experience.
Users can test their colour vision and determine their eye deficiency type and level with a series of quick, click-through colour diagrams. The app then links to their TV and can directly calibrate the colours on-screen based on their personal diagnosis.
CVD affects nearly 300 million people worldwide (Samsung, 2017), making it difficult for them to identify and distinguish between certain colours. By recognising this impairment, the innovation demonstrates how advanced technologies can improve everyday experiences for those with disabilities – a theme that we explore further in Design for Disability.
Samsung worked in partnership with Hungarian company ColorLite to develop the app, adopting its scientific research for colour blindness corrective lenses as well as the ColorLite Test – which uses colour filters and mathematical modelling to help diagnose the extent of CVD. Both the test and corrective technology have been translated for use on TVs and mobile devices.
We expect to see more advances that will transform the way in which people with impairments interact with technology, such as artificial intelligence. For more emerging tech, see Mindful Automation and look out for our coverage of CES, publishing soon.
A partnership between Swiss chemicals group Archroma and Dutch fashion brand G-Star Raw has resulted in a capsule collection of naturally dyed denim jeans – an initiative that promotes more sustainable alternatives to synthetic textile dyeing.
Available in green, brown and blue, the jeans are dyed with Archroma’s Earthcolors. These high-performance natural dyes are synthesised from non-edible agricultural or herbal industry plant waste, such as leaves or nutshells. Made using up to 100% natural waste material, the dyes can be used without generating any toxic wastewater. For more on responsible and innovative dye processes, see Considered Colour.
Earthcolors feature seven warm, earthen tones, including a brown made using almond shells and a sandy yellow made using residue from bitter oranges. The dyes are currently suitable for cellulosic fibres such as cotton, viscose and linen, with dyes for other fibres in development.
A rising awareness of the harmful effects of industrial dyeing pollutants is causing brands to consider eco-friendly manufacturing processes. At present, many colours are made using petroleum or sulfur dye, and most blue jeans are dyed with synthetic indigo – processes that damage the environment due to chemicals and pollutants in the wastewater.
Other clothing brands such as Patagonia and Kathmandu have also partnered with Archroma to bring natural, sustainably dyed products to market. See our A/W 19/20 Colour Direction Sacred Earth for more on raw and natural colour.
Global colour system manufacturer Pantone has announced its forecast Colour of the Year 2018 as Ultra Violet (TCX 18-3838). The saturated, blue-toned purple is cited as a complex colour that communicates “originality, ingenuity and visionary thinking”.
Last year the company selected Greenery, a vivid yellow-green shade that represented new beginnings (read more in our blog post). This nature-inspired hue is now replaced by Ultra Violet. Described by Pantone as an optimistic colour that looks towards the future amid uncertain social, economic and political times, it’s intended to convey an uplifting message of hope.
“From exploring new technologies and the greater galaxy, to artistic expression and spiritual reflection, intuitive Ultra Violet lights the way to what is yet to come,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Colour Institute. “This is the kind of colour attached historically to originality, ingenuity and visionary thinking. These are the elements we need to create a meaningful future.”
We also explore the uplifting effects of bold and heightened colour in our latest Colour Spectrum theme Playful Optimism: Colour – which includes the shade Electric Violet. Read more about the purple hue group in our Evolution A/W 19/20 colour analysis.
Belgian designer Nicolas Verschaeve has collaborated with French textile designer Juliette Le Goff to create Mirage, a spatial partition that employs shifting tonal strips of fabric to alter a space’s ambience and mood.
The Mirage partition can be used to segment open interiors or function as a moveable blind screen, placed in front of a window to create shade and filter coloured light into a space. It can either be suspended from the ceiling or stand on timber feet on the floor. The design features long strips of coloured polyester fabric wrapped around two top and bottom poles and two smaller internal rods that can be pulled up and down to adjust the pieces of textile.
The fabric strips are tinted with alternating contrasting colours that increase in intensity from one end to the other. By pulling on the two interior rods, the user is able to manipulate the combination of tonal gradients to create interesting juxtapositions of pale to saturated, light to dark and warm to cold shades. Recognising the influence of colour – and combinations of colour – on human psychology, Verschaeve and Le Goff designed Mirage to invite users to interact with their surroundings and gain a sense of control over the mood and experience of their space.
Read Playful Optimism from Colour Spectrum A/W 19/20 for more on how luminescent brights are being applied to designs to create a youthful and joyous experience. And read the Light Play section of our Dutch Design Week 2017 report for more on the designers exploring the potential of blinds to create comfort and visual interest.