Credit: Teresa van Dongen

In the second installment of our weekly wrap on what’s new in materials and technology research, we bring you a bioluminescent luminaire, self-folding plastic, an optical illusion based on naturally occurring patterns, and more.

Dutch designer Teresa van Dongen infused her Ambio pendant (above) with bioluminescent bacteria that live on octopus tentacles and glow blue when exposed to oxygen. To work, however, the fixture requires perpetual motion—something van Dongen nearly achieves with the addition of a brass weight. When nudged, it churns the liquid light source causing the bacteria to glow. [Wired]

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst sandwiched a layer of temperature-responsive hydrogel between two layers of rigid plastic to create millimeter-scale 3D structures that fold, simultaneously, on their own. Digital patterns on the plastic help maintain key material properties—stiffness in one area and flexibility in another. Applications include medical implants that can expand once inserted, paving the way for future uses at larger scales. [Gizmag]

Stanford University design lecturer John Edmark 3D printed a series of sculptures and brought them to life by spinning them under a strobe light or recording them at a high shutter speed. Meant to emulate the naturally occurring patterns in pine-cones, pineapples, and palm trees, the leaves or appendages that shape each of Edmark's models are spaced according to the mathematical Fibonacci sequence. [Gizmodo]

Flickr user redplanet89 via a Creative Commons license

University of Melbourne researchers discovered a liquid crystal that can enhance the performance of printed organic solar cells, nearing industry benchmarks for the still-nascent technology that lags behind its silicon-based counterparts in efficiency. Printable electronics can be fitted to nearly any surface, with the potential to turn more elements of the building envelope into streamlined solar collectors. []

Randall Kamien

Physicists at the University of Pennsylvania are exploring applications for kirigami—a form of folded art though which the paper can also be cut—in other materials. The goal is to use limited rules and product, such as wire, pipe, or block, to build 3D structures in inaccessible or hostile environments. Potential applications in construction span earth and space. [Materials360]