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Materials for the future of Design! Part II

Posted by
on November 14, 2014 at 08:26 PM

TFOD Correspondent Ar. Aniruddha Mahale continues his inputs on new and exciting materials in the industry! In this Part Two of the series, he is focusing on some more new materials,  giving a glimpse of what the world of technology and science has in store for us - not only in the fields of architecture, and design, but even in the fields of aviation, healthcare and fashion!

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In Part One, we discussed some of the newer materials that have emerged in the market in the past decade that have revolutionized the field of design - from Seas Balls to Self-reinforced Thermoplastics. These materials find usage in various applications, and make many processes, scientific or otherwise simpler, and also cheaper; whether packing material, or insulation boards to changing the shape of existing aircraft. This time, we cover four more of such wonders that not only alter the way things can be made, but also simplify it manifold.


In order to avoid using valuable tropical woods and thus felling rain forests, techniques have been developed in recent years to make the wood from coconut palm plantations suitable for the furniture industry and for flooring. Coconut wood has no annual rings. It is characterized by its spotted structure. As the wood is significantly harder at the periphery of the trunk than on the inside, it is primarily this wood that is used for material production. Coconut wood only shrinks and swells minimally and is harder than oak, making it very resourceful and cost-effective in its usage in furniture.


While ecological materials already focus on the use of natural fibers as a reinforcing material and natural materials in composites, a number of researchers and manufacturers are now working on production processes that enable materials to be grown organically ( e.g. Ecovative Design.). Fungal species come into play here, for example those able to solidly bind organic waste materials. Crude oil is not required. The organic manufacturing process is based on the cellulose found in natural waste products such as the husks of rice and wheat, as well as on lignin as a binding matrix material. A new process utilizes the growth principles of the thread-shaped myzelium of fungi, which in nature usually colonizes on solid substrates such as wood, soil and organic waste, to produce hard foams naturally. The fungi form a network of microscopically small threads, which solidly binds the various organic waste materials. This effectively finds its way in packing material, and as a simple and cheap form of insulation.


Retro-reflective surfaces are primarily used in fields where safety is an issue, and in fashion. Typical applications include reflective patches for cyclists and security staff. Retro-reflective fabric is also very popular in shoe design. In art, the material was discovered only recently. Reflective concrete, currently being developed under the name BlingCrete, is intended to be used for marking edges and hazardous areas (e.g. steps, platforms) and designing integrated building guidance systems and large structural elements. Given its special feel it can also be used in tactile guidance systems for the blind.


In 2008, a light-transmitting wood composite material with a similar structure was launched under the Luminoso brand. Fiberglass mats are layered between thin wooden panels and bonded using cold PU glue. The surface is completely sealed. The choice of wood, space between layers, and strength of the luminous fabric can influence the degree of light permeability. The wood used for backlit paneling and dividers in interior spaces and trade fair stands must be absolutely flawless, so as not to disturb the overall impression. A picture that is placed behind the composite panel will be transferred to the other side once it is lit from the rear. Even films can be projected on to the material.

Like I’ve said before, these materials are only a tiny window into what the world of technology and science has in store for us-  they unlock new portals , and transcend new levels not only in the fields of architecture, and design, but even in the fields of aviation, healthcare and fashion. With all this in mind, one can end on this positive note: The future looks promising.

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