Using an "inexpensive" 3D printer, a team of Carnegie Mellon University researchers have successfully created flat plastic sheets that, when heated, fold themselves into predetermined forms such as a rose, a boat, or a bunny. To achieve this, a printer deposits a continuous filament of melted thermoplastic at a specifically programmed speed to ensure sections that are "warp prone." The resulting hard plastic sheets are flat, but the folding process is triggered when deposited in warm water. Lining Yao, assistant professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute and director of the Morphing Matter Lab, speculates that this technology could be a precursor to self-assembling flat-pack furniture or emergency shelters that could take form when heated by the sun. [Carnegie Mellon University]

Xiaozhou Che, EECS Graduate Research Assistant, holds an organic tandem photovoltaic cell
Photo by Joseph Xu courtesy the University of Michigan Xiaozhou Che, EECS Graduate Research Assistant, holds an organic tandem photovoltaic cell

Researchers from the University of Michigan have developed organic solar cells that achieve an efficiency of 15 percent—the same average efficiency of commercially available silicon-based photovoltaic cells currently on the market. Previous iterations of organic cells could achieve about 10 or 11 percent efficiency, but then the team created stacked cells that absorb both visible and infrared light. Compared to the more rigid silicon-based photovoltaics, organic carbon-based solar cells are less expensive to manufacture and are flexible enough to be incorporated into clothing. [University of Michigan]

General Electric announced Tuesday that it would begin testing the world's largest wind turbine at a facility in northern England. This venture is part of an effort with Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult to help the U.K. reach 30 gigawatts of wind-powered energy by 2030. [Reuters]

British artist Michael Pinsky installed five pollution-filled geodesic domes on the Somerset House grounds in London on April 18 to 25 to allow visitors to experience the air quality of four cities—London, New Delhi, Beijing, and São Paulo—after first experiencing the "clean smelling air" of the Norwegian island of Tautra. Pinsky hopes visitors will "consider the complex and interconnected nature of our world, and ... challenge perceptions of, and action around, climate change." [Somerset House]

A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles–based Disney Research have developed a method that can transform walls into smart surfaces. Using conductive paint and an electromagnetic sensor, users can adjust room brightness or track use of electric appliances. [ARCHITECT]

Call for Entries [UPDATE]: The extended deadline for ARCHITECT's 12th annual R+D Awards closes today, April 27, at 11:59pm EST. New this year: Autodesk is offering winners of the program the opportunity to participate in its BUILD Space resident program in Boston. Winners will be featured in ARCHITECT's July issue and online. [ARCHITECT]