Courtesy Solomon Cordwell Buenz

Chicago will soon be home to a new architectural ride for adrenaline junkies. Local firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB) recently released plans for a glass-walled elevator that will be fixed to the outside of the 46-year-old Aon Center in the Chicago Loop, transporting visitors 1,000 vertical feet in 60 seconds. Visitors can then take in a panoramic view of the city from the top of the 83-story tower. Construction will begin this year with expected completion in 2021. [SCB]

Turkish designers and Flan Studio founders Alpkenan Koska and Cem Ozan Cetintas have created a library of free downloadable imagery for architects and designers to use. In what the duo call "free-willed content" are images ranging from people and plants to animal and objects that can all be downloaded in a PNG or DWG format. According to the designers, the library will be expanded monthly. [Flan Studio]

This week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced an investment of up to $130 million in early-stage research focused on photovoltaics, concentrating solar-thermal power, soft costs reduction, innovations in manufacturing, and solar systems integration, according to a DOE press release. “Solar is an integral part of the Administration’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy,” said U.S. secretary of energy Rick Perry in the same release. “This cutting-edge, early stage research & development will work in concert with other innovative technologies to provide affordable, efficient, and reliable energy to the American people.” [DOE]

A team of researchers from the University of Maryland has developed a system that "transformed a piece of wood into a flexible membrane that generates energy from the same type of electric current (ions) that the human body runs on," according to a university press release. To achieve this, the team removed lignin and hemicellulose from basswood, resulting in a flexible cellulose structure. Platinum electrodes were placed around the border of the membrane, facilitating the transportation of an electrical current in the nanostructure of the wood. [University of Maryland]

Sample parapet wall section strategically incorporating color and line patterns
Bradford Prestbo / Courtesy Sasaki Sample parapet wall section strategically incorporating color and line patterns

Because project teams are increasingly toting tablets instead of drawing sets onto construction sites, Sasaki has incorporated a low-tech solution to increase the readability of these documents: color. "The idea of continuing to use old drawing practices with new technology is, in a word, silly," writes Bradford Prestbo, FAIA, chair of the firm's technical resource group, in a blog post. [Sasaki]

The 13th iteration of ARCHITECT's R+D Awards program is now open for submissions! [ARCHITECT]