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Mind & Matter

 

All posts by Blaine Brownell

June 05, 2012

Researchers Use Viruses to Harness Power

Piezoelectric power harvesting has drawn much attention, given its ability to generate electrical energy from mechanical energy. First discovered in the late 19th century, piezoelectric has three major drawbacks, though: it typically involves materials that are highly toxic and unmanageable, it doesn't produce much power, and it is rather delicate in nature. Recent experiments conducted at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) have the potential to improve upon the first two challenges. Read more...

 
 
May 31, 2012

Making Better Asphalt with Nanoclays

As summer road crews get to work filling ruts and potholes, we are reminded of the shortcomings of modern asphalt. Although one might expect this material to be superior to past technologies, it is important to remember that fragments still remain of Babylonian roadbeds constructed in 600 BCE—some 2,700 years ago. Zhanping You, a scientist at Michigan Technological University, speculated about the possibility of adding nanoclays to modern asphalt in order to extend its useful life. Read more...

 
 
May 29, 2012

Loudspeakers in Print

In the early 20th century, Belgian artist René Magritte created The Treachery of Images, a painting that depicts a pipe with the provocative statement "Ceci n'est pas une pipe (this is not a pipe)" written below it. Magritte's explanation for the seemingly contrary declaration is that what you see is a representation of a pipe; not the actual object itself. Thanks to the work of the Institute for Print and Media Technology of Chemnitz University of Technology (pmTUC), an object and its representation have become one and the same. Researchers at pmTUC have recently created printed speakers—loudspeakers that are printed on standard paper. Read more...

 
 
May 22, 2012

New Display Mimics Structural Color in Nature

Structural color is a natural phenomenon in which color is produced by the optical interference of light rather than by traditional pigments. Familiar examples of the effect include a peacock's brilliant plumage or the eye-catching wings of the morpho butterfly. Earlier this month, scientists at the Department of Physics and the Graduate School of Nanoscience and Technology at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology published an article in Nature describing their development of a display to emulate the structural color effect in morpho butterfly wings. Read more...

 
 
May 17, 2012

Putting New Spins on Brick

In Louis Kahn's parable of the brick, a brick "tells" Kahn how it should be used to create architecture ("I like an arch," says the brick). In the case of one firm's renovation of an existing brick loft building, the principles of "brick-ness" extend beyond the actual physical unit of masonry into other materials and building systems. The Singapore-based practice Farm designed the renovation of an older building in the Joo Chiat neighborhood with the intent to transform it into a "chic industrial loft." Read more...

 
 

About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.