Materials and Inventions: The Stuff of Dreams
CATEGORIES: Business Life
Get up to speed on the latest fabrics, types of cement, electronic gizmos and other newfangled objects, so you won’t feel overwhelmed by a future that’s already here.
Translucent cement walls? A light bulb that doesn’t need electricity? Tennis shoes with “robolaces” like in Back to the Future 2? The 21st century offers an amazing array of supermaterials (and new uses for old ones) in fashion, design and urban planning.
The lightest solid material in the world resembles glass in its composition, but it’s a thousand times less dense. It looks like a cloud, but looks can be deceiving. Aerogel’s structure is so strong that it is even used in spacecraft. A thin sheet of aerogel can provide protection from temperatures up to more than 1,000 degrees Celsius. It’s also useful for gathering stellar dust, desalinating water, detecting subatomic particles, insulating windows, coating household appliances and in the production of components that accelerate the speed of computers.
Are you a magnet for mosquitoes? The scent produced by Arnywear clothing is undetectable by humans but effectively repels the pesky bugs, shielding the wearer from nasty bites. The active ingredient is a natural product, without any harmful chemical substances. Meanwhile, the fibers in Buzz Off clothing protect from various kinds of insects. The odorless repellent is embedded in the clothing fiber and continues to work even after being washed. Buzz Off clothing also provides solar protection.
Say good-bye to coal, kerosene or gas oil stoves. Now you can save energy and create less pollution by using wood and other organic refuse in the form of biomass – fuel made from biological material compressed into convenient pellets.
The newest essential gadget for avid sunbathers. The Tan-Timer features an alarm that sounds every 15 minutes, letting you know that it’s time to turn over or head for the shade. Another alternative is SmartSwim, a bikini that measures the intensity of UV rays to help you decide just how long you can spend at the beach.
The ingenious Russians have invented a sort of protective liquid shell for vehicles. In the event of a crash, Liquid Armor transforms into a ridged, highly resistant compound. Made from a gel containing solid nanostructures and a liquid filling, the armor remains flexible until impact, at which point the nanoparticles fuse in less than a millisecond, turning the substance into an impenetrable shield. Liquid Armor can be used in automotive vehicles, helicopters, motorboats, military equipment and protective vests.
White & green Cement
This innovative construction material reduces contamination and keeps building façades clean. When the active ingredient, TX Active, makes contact with sunlight, it produces a chemical reaction that decomposes certain contaminating substances. TX Aria ecological cement reduces contaminants and purifies air. TX Arca self-cleaning cement dissolves filth and helps preserve exterior color. The product manufacturers say that if 15 percent of all building exteriors were re-covered with this product, we could reduce urban contamination by as much as 50 percent.
The Taiwanese firm Asustek Computer is producing a bamboo-encased computer: the Asus Eco Book. According to the company, bamboo is an abundant, flexible, durable and high-growth plant, whose use doesn’t hurt the environment (in contrast to the felling of trees and other processes involving wood). But be warned: the bonding agents and colored stickers may contain toxic elements.
Jacket or Airbag?
This airbag-jacket is especially designed to protect motorcyclists. In the event of an accident in which the rider is thrown from the bike, an emergency cable attached to the motorcycle activates the gas, which fills the airbag built into the jacket in less than a second.
This new fabric from Philips works as an honest-to-goodness display screen thanks to state-of-the-art technology. Press a button that turns on the LED lights, and as if by magic, shirt begins to show text, animation or images that change color. The concept is also applicable to furniture. Imagine, for example, a sofa with upholstery that displays animation of a galloping horse. Isn’t that what your living room needs?
Do you find cement to be sober, severe, lifeless? A Hungarian architect has changed this sad state of affairs by incorporating optic fiber. The result? Cement that lets light pass through. Litra Con offers all the structural qualities of regular cement, but allows you to see the blurred shapes of objects on the other side. When hit by light, this sturdy and ridged material takes on a magically cloudy quality.
The “robolaced” shoes from the movie Back to the Future 2 – which adjusted themselves to your foot – may soon be more than a special effect. The McFly2015 project is collecting signatures online, urging Nike to make them a reality.
The MyHeart project has created a shirt that records vital signs. Ten internal sensors monitor the wearer and automatically send the information to a team of doctors. Via a PDA or cell phone, you’re told whether you should change your diet, take medication or head directly to the hospital.
You can fold this flexible and portable invention just like a newspaper. The idea is to replace traditional paper with ultramodern screens the thickness of fine cardboard that can be tucked in your pocket. E-paper is of particular interest to textbook publishers; school books made with e-paper would not only eliminate the need for children to lug heavy books from classroom to home and back, but would allow near-instantaneous content updates.
Polyester, polyamide, acrylic fibers and polyolefin are the superheroes of the textile world. These microfibers and ultra-microfibers are produced in extreme lab conditions. Their microscopic diameters allow manufacturers to make threads the same thickness as traditional ones (but with many more fibers), which can then be used to create more resistant, absorbent and lighter-weight fabrics. They are breathable, yet stronger than steel and resistant to acids, fire and high temperatures. Professional sportswear made from these materials keeps athletes dry and comfortable during even the hardest workout.
Electrochromic polymers – fabrics that change color depending on the voltage applied to the fibers – are 21st-century style at its finest. Electronic garments use special fabrics capable of conducting electricity, enabling the components to “communicate” with each other. Another option is to use thermo-sensitive colorants, which cause the clothing to change color depending on the temperature of the room or the wearer. Even more sophisticated are the fabrics that change color according to your mood. Imagine the possibilities…
Tritium sounds like a superhero but it’s actually a material used to make a simple light bulb. But this is no mild-mannered light, however. Litroenergy makes it shine brightly – for about 12 years! – with no need for batteries, electricity or any external power source, thanks to tritium, the material that brings us super-bulbs, eternal battery energy, continuously luminous paint and a whole world of possibilities. Imagine covering basement walls with tritium for constant lighting at considerable savings.