Four-dimensional printed metal fabric from NASA? Self-charging batteries? Lighting that you can wrap around a pencil as easily as you can wrap it around a room? The industry is awash in new technology and products that architects love.
Some make life easier. Some make working a much more creative endeavor. All three of these tech advances make 2017 a great time to be an architect.
#1: NASA’s Four-D Printed Metal Fabric
Leave it to NASA to expand on 3D printing. Their new 4-dimensional printed metal “space fabric,” says Digital Trends, takes 3D printing and adds programmed-in function.
The sheet resembles square chainmail or a flexible grid of small, square metallic tiles. One side of the fabric reflects light and the other side absorbs it. It’s designed to flex, fold and conform to a variety of shapes, says Digital Trends, and it can “function as a thermal control for passive heat management.” It’s also recyclable and reusable, as the material can be destroyed and turned into something else.
What’s more, NASA can program in additional functions. This is a major step beyond 3D printing. It may one day be used on spacecraft in space suits and, they explain, it can be used to even out rough and unforgiving space terrain for a smooth and navigable surface.
#2: Self-Charging Batteries for Tech Devices
Who hasn’t felt the sting of battery drain without a USB cable or electrical outlet in sight? Smartphones and other technology rely on lithium-ion batteries. Unfortunately, batteries need lots of electricity to power those devices, and work comes to a standstill when the batteries die.
Solar-powered chargers help, at least in some cases. But they still leave a lot to be desired. That’s why professor and Mining and Materials Engineering chair, George P. Demopoulos, along with researchers at McGill University and Hydro-Québec’s research institute are developing self-charging batteries that rely on light, says Science Daily.
Researchers have simulated the process, says Science Daily, and now they have to build it.
“Scientists will now have to build an anode, the storage component, which will close the device’s circuit, allowing energy produced by the cathode described in Nature Communications to be transferred and stored.”
Self-charging devices that never need to plug in may very well be on the horizon.
#3: Flexible, Colorful Fiber Lighting
What’s bendy, twisty and can illuminate a room as easily as a basketball court? Fiber lighting by Versalume, which is now owned by Corning.
The technology behind Corning Fibrance Light-Diffusing Fiber is making a stir from Burning Man to art exhibits. It has been wound into vehicle tail lights and used to create basketball court perimeter lighting that’s synchronized with buzzers and clocks.
Architect magazine says Fibrance is about one millimeter thick, uses “glass with a polymer coating,” and can provide 33 feet of l light using a single laser in green, red, blue or multicolor. They “shatter and diffuse light within the fiber.”
Imagine programmable and printable metal mesh fabric in architecture applications. How much easier would life be using device batteries that stay charged and never need to plug in? How much fun could you have with a rainbow of flexible fiber lighting? Technology makes life and work more interesting and it opens up new possibilities for the future.
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