6 of the lightest and strongest materials on Earth

March 18, 2017 by  
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The future of construction is more exciting than ever thanks to huge technological developments in material innovation. Researchers are constantly developing new materials that are stronger and lighter than ever before, paving the way to a more energy-efficient and eco-friendly future in everything from transportation to medical technology . We’ve rounded up six cutting-edge materials that rank among some of the lightest and strongest ever discovered—keep reading to see them all. 3D Graphene Made from pure carbon , ultra-thin graphene is thought to be one of the strongest materials on the planet. But earlier this year, researchers at MIT found a way to turn two-dimensional graphene into a three-dimensional structure by designing a new material with a sponge-like configuration that’s 5 percent the density of steel and about 10 times as strong. The super-strong and lightweight 3D graphene has been shown to be stronger than its 2D counterpart and offers greater potential uses thanks to its building block form. Carbyne In the spring of 2016, a team of Austrian researchers revealed that they were able to successfully synthesize Carbyne, an exotic form of carbon that they say is the strongest of all known materials—even surpassing graphene . Considered the holy grail of carbon allotropes, Carbyne is made from a monodimensional chain of carbon atoms that’s highly reactive, making it very tricky to synthesize. The stiff material is believed to be twice as strong as carbon nanotubes. Aerographite Created from a network of porous carbon tubes, aerographite is synthetic foam that’s one of the lightest structural materials ever created. Developed by researchers at the University of Kiel and the Technical University of Hamburg, aerographite can be produced in a variety of shapes and boasts a density of just 180 grams per cubic meter, making it about 75 times lighter than styrofoam. The material could be used on the electrodes of lithium ion batteries to reduce their weight. Aerographene Aerographene, also known as graphene aerogel, is believed to be the world’s lightest material with a density of just 0.16 milligram per cubic centimeter. Zhejiang University researchers developed the material, which is approximately 7.5 times less dense than air. The extremely elastic material can absorb up to 900 times their own weight in oil and water, making oil spill cleanups a potential application. Metallic microlattice Metallic microlattice is the world’s lightest metal and one of the lightest structural materials. This synthetic porous material made from nickel phosphorous tubes has a density as low as 0.9 milligrams per cubic centimeter. Potential uses include applications in automotive engineering, aeronautical engineering, and more. Limpet teeth The teeth of limpets, the term for aquatic snails found clinging to rocky shores, are considered one of the strongest biological materials in the world. Made of a mineral-protein composite, limpet teeth have been revealed in a University of Portsmouth study to be much stronger than spider silk . Its strength is believed to be due to its tightly packed mineral fibers, which scientists could combine into man-made composites to create stronger planes, cars, and even dental fillings. Lead image via ZD News/Huffington Post

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6 of the lightest and strongest materials on Earth

Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave’ inspires beautiful home design in California

March 16, 2017 by  
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California-based architect Mario Romano ‘s motto “live in art” is clearly visible in his design of the stunning Preston House, inspired by Hokusai’s “The Great Wave.” The home’s exterior was clad with layers of brushed aluminum to create a “rolling” volume that reflects the varying tones and colors of the sky. Although the 5,700 square-foot home is certainly unique in its artful aesthetic, it also has various eco-friendly features incorporated throughout the design. The home’s sculpture-like volume was meant to mimic the blowing winds, detailed brush strokes and the “solitude of barreled water” found in Hokusai’s famous print. However, the unique materials were not only chosen for their art-inspired aesthetics. The aluminum facade sits one inch above the building’s waterproof skin, strategically allowing it to breathe. This feature pulls double duty as a rain screen system that allows air to flow into the layers, essentially stopping any moisture from growing into mold. It also helps ventilate the home by pushing rising hot air outwards and upwards, away from the main volume. Related: Philip Johnson’s Wiley House hits the market for $12 million The home’s interior is a luxurious space comprised of six bedrooms and five baths and a number of common areas, each with its own distinct design. The architect used his own product line, M.R. Walls and Floors, which are resistant to bacteria and water, to cover much of the walls and flooring. Using customized digital tools and CNC technology, the surfaces convert  eco-friendly materials into bold design patterns inspired by nature. For example, the interior flooring on the second floor appears to be wooden planks, but it’s actually an innovative material called SIMOWOOD, which is made of recycled rice husk. + Mario Romano

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Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave’ inspires beautiful home design in California

Yi She Mountain Inn is a serene retreat built with local materials

January 27, 2017 by  
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Just a mere hour outside of Beijing lies Yi She Mountain Inn, a tranquil off-grid retreat tucked into an expansive mountain range. The inn, which was designed by DL Atelier and built with locally-sourced materials , offers a firm sense of simplicity in lieu of the typical luxurious amenities, offering an “environment designed to inspire humility, tolerance, enthusiasm and other beautiful emotions.” The inn was built with locally-sourced brick and wood, but includes a number of green pockets to integrate nature into the design. A lovely green roof coveres the buildings and a vertical brick wall is covered in climbing vines and wild flowers that bloom in springtime. The courtyard is filled sunlight and has natural ventilation, making it the perfect atmosphere for socializing. Related: Pine-clad V Lodge is a bold, minimalist retreat nestled within the Norwegian landscape The main spaces inside the spacious compound are meant to be communal, where interaction between guests is the norm. At the heart of the retreat is an open-air kitchen, which leads out on to a graveled patio. For indoor socializing, there is a large family-style dining table under an inverted wooden roof . Of course, for those who desire a bit of solitude, there are plenty of private nooks and crannies for quiet contemplation. Five guest rooms are found on the east side of the inn, each with its own distinct design and spectacular views of the mountains . + DL Atelier Via Archdaily Photography by Sun Haiting

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Yi She Mountain Inn is a serene retreat built with local materials

MIT researchers unveil ultralight material 10 times stronger than steel

January 10, 2017 by  
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Researchers at MIT have found a way to make one of the world’s strongest materials even stronger . Graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon that gets its strength from a unique honeycomb structure, was made even more durable by compressing and fusing it into a 3D sponge-like configuration. The ultralight material has a density of just five percent, but could be as much as 10 times stronger than steel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIcZdc42F0g A two-dimensional sheet of graphene measures one atom in thickness but is known as one of the strongest materials in the world. Using a combination of heat and pressure, a team of MIT researchers led by Markus Buehler, head of MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), was able to produce an even stronger version which resembles the form of some corals and microscopic creatures called diatoms, both of which have enormous surface area by volume but are lightweight due to their porous structure. Similarly, the 3D form of graphene has shown to be even stronger than its two-dimensional form. Related: New graphene super batteries charge up in seconds and last virtually forever “Once we created these 3D structures, we wanted to see what’s the limit—what’s the strongest possible material we can produce,” said Zhao Qin, a CEE research scientist and one of the study’s co-authors. “One of our samples has five percent the density of steel, but 10 times the strength.” The potential applications for graphene are nearly endless. The super-strong, lightweight material can be used in ultra-fast charging supercapacitors to create batteries that last essentially forever, can improve the energy efficiency of desalination processes , and can even help solar panels convert more energy into usable electricity. Graphene is very expensive, though, so researchers are continuing to work on ways to enhance its value by bolstering its strength. The research results were published this week in the journal Science Advances. Via MIT Images via Melanie Gonick/MIT and Zhao Qin

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Chemical-free community swimming pool is filled with recycled rainwater filtered through plants

January 9, 2017 by  
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This isn’t your run-of-the-mill neighborhood swimming pool. Instead of harsh chemicals and bland concrete, this elegant pool, designed by Philippe Barriere Collective is filled with naturally-filtered , recycled water and built out of local rocks, gravel and stone. To keep the partially-open space warm in the cooler months, recycled steam from the hamman in the complex is distributed throughout the space, giving the lucky residents who get to use it an organic experience closer to romping around in a natural spring than slogging through another boring session of laps in an antiseptic gym. The aquatic complex, called Lilu for the Berber term for rainwater, comprises a health club, cafe (organic, of course), a hamman and the pool. The complex has flexible hours to encourage neighborhood residents to socialize and relax after a healthy session in the fitness spaces. Just don’t call it “going to the gym” – this is a much more natural and all encompassing experience. Related: The UK’s first natural public swimming pool will use plants, not chemicals, to stay clean The water is filtered into the pool by allowing rainwater to run down an olive orchard hill, through the complex pavilions, through filtering and finally purified by running through plants (water lily, water hyacinth, phragmites australis, caltha palustris, menthe aquatic for purification and hippuris vulgaris, waterweed for oxygenation). There is no chlorine required to keep things clean. This eco-system, filled with biodiversity, ensures a low-maintenance, self-sustaining system that can be enjoyed by the whole community. The vaults enclosing the pool are made out of local materials . These vaults cover the top space, but the sides are left semi-open and the main level partially submerged below ground. This allows the space to be filled with natural light and air. To keep the space warm in the cooler months, steam from the hamman is recycled and redistributed through the complex. + Philippe Barriere Collective Via V2com

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Chemical-free community swimming pool is filled with recycled rainwater filtered through plants

Crazy gun shoots frozen tears at things that make you cry

October 31, 2016 by  
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https://vimeo.com/188858189 Tear Gun is a strange-looking pistol that collects tears in a silicon pocket under the eye, freezes them in a brass bottle and shoots them like bullets. The design is Chen’s final Master’s project at the Design Academy of Eindhoven , and a way to visualize her personal struggle in a poetic way. She designed the gun after her then tutor Jan Boelen ( Z33 ) pushed her to take a critical approach and confront his opinions, forcing her to confront her obedience to authority that stems from her Taiwanese cultural conditioning. But all she could do was cry. Related: Cheese Made from Olafur Eliasson’s Tears on Display in Dublin Tear Gun was Chen’s way to express her previously repressed emotions using design as a vehicle to stand up for herself. She told Inhabitat after that episode she decided to embrace her emotions, and to “just accept the tears, but also take advantage of them.” We spotted Yi-Fei Chen’s Tear Gun at the Design Academy of Eindhoven’s Graduation Show during Dutch Design Week 2016. + Yi-Fei Chen + Design Academy of Eindhoven + Dutch Design Week Photos by Ana Lisa Alperovich for Inhabitat and Yi-Fei Chen

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8 inexpensive earth homes almost anyone can afford

October 18, 2016 by  
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1. Dome-shaped earth bag house keeps residents cool in Colombia La Casa Vergara’s uncommon dome shapes may captivate the eye, but what’s underneath is most impressive. The Bogota home, built by architect Jose Andres Vallejo , is made from “ earth bags ,” or tubular bags stuffed with – you guessed it – earth. These bags are stacked atop each other and encased in concrete on both sides, which work together to prevent both earthquake and water damage. Exposed timber beams and plentiful daylighting make everyday living a bit greener and the $28 per square foot price tag puts the home within many buyers’ price range. 2. A green-roofed Hobbit home anyone can build in just 3 days These charming hobbit-like dwellings are prefabricated by Magic Green Homes and can be constructed in just three days. Sized at 400-square-feet, the green-roofed living spaces are so easy to assemble, practically anyone can do it. They require no heavy equipment to build, instead utilizing perforated flaps that are screwed and sealed together. Magic Green Homes adapt to any topography around the world, making this a dream come true for nearly anyone. 3. Build your own disaster-proof earth home using materials of war For anyone who is interested in building their own earth home, yet doesn’t know where to start, the guidance of Cal-Earth might come in handy. The California-based group teaches others DIY methods for creating your own dwelling using sustainable and disaster-proof materials. The group specializes in reusing materials of war and fortifying homes located in areas at risk of natural disasters. Sandbags packed with earth, barbed wire for tension, and stabilizing materials such as cement, lime, or asphalt emulsion all come together in a comfortable home that can withstand the elements. 4. Passive solar orphanage constructed with earth bags Orkidstudio , an organization that specializes in humanitarian design, opened up an orphanage in Nakuru, Kenya that is made entirely out of earth bags. The passive solar structure absorbs heat during the day and releases it at night, creating a comfortable space for the children and staff inside. The orphanage is clad in recycled timber and features running water sourced from an on-site rainwater collection system. Not only did the project come together to produce an inviting and efficient facility, but it was put together in only eight weeks by a team of UK architecture students. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=522&v=U9b-h_cCdO8 5. Earth Home Builder machine “3D prints” entire homes from bags of earth Building low-cost, environmentally friendly homes is a sign of moving in the right direction and the Earth Home Builder makes the process amazingly efficient. Working similarly to a 3D printer , the skid-operated machine can fill bags of earth at a rate of 400 bags per hour. Given that only 30 bags can be filled at the hands of humans, the machine could revolutionize access to affordable and responsible housing. United Earth Builders , who developed the technology, are working to find non-profit partners to help bring earth homes to the masses. 6. Budget-minded rammed Earth home in Mexico One family in Mexico opted to create a multi-colored home on a budget with the help of architect Tatiana Bilbao ’s expertise. The rammed earth dwelling is mesmerizing inside and out, thanks to the clever practice of adding pigment to the material before layering the walls from the ground up. The distinct effect only adds to the temperature control qualities of the home, which is essential during the hot Mexican summers. Ajijic House features floor-to-ceiling windows and two open terraces to take advantage of the breathtaking coastal views. Indoors, the use of locally-sourced pine wood flooring allows the family to enjoy beautiful details in their home without breaking the bank. 7. Luxurious Triksa Villa combines rammed earth, bamboo and recycled wood When building using earthen materials, it is possible to create a home that would rival the most luxurious of vacation spots. Chiangmai Life Construction has built the Triksa Villa in northern Thailand, a stunning structure made from part rammed earth, and part mixture of clay and concrete for the foundation. Adobe brick walls keep the space a comfortable temperature while the bamboo roof gives the company sustainable material bragging rights. Recycled hardwood and a lavish outdoor pool setting shatter any preconceived notion that green building materials cannot produce an eye-catching slice of paradise. 8. Rural Ghana home built from rammed earth and recycled plastic In the countryside of Ghana lies this unique home made from rammed earth , recycled plastic, and fortified against the elements using natural materials. The home was constructed from student Anna Webster’s winning design through a Nka Foundation building competition. She states, “We aimed to overcome the negative associations of these materials and move away from the primitive image of building with earth by applying a modern design aesthetic.” Plastic waste is repurposed into window screens and roof materials and the sturdy rammed earth walls are covered in a cassava starch sealant to prevent exterior water damage. The home cost just $7865 to construct and serves as an example of what can be done with found materials and a little creativity. Images via Nka Foundation , Chiangmai Life Construction ,  United Earth Builders ,  Jose Andres Vallejo ,  Cal-Earth ,  Tatiana Bilbao ,  Orkidstudio , Green Magic Homes

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8 inexpensive earth homes almost anyone can afford

Burnt wood-clad tiny home manages to pack a ton of luxury into just 240 square feet

September 8, 2016 by  
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New Frontier Tiny Homes is owned and operated by David Latimer, Zac Thomas, and Eddie Latimer, who seek to develop tiny houses on wheels for people to live in a more sensible way. They hope to show people that they can live economically, socially and environmentally-friendly without compromising on aesthetics. Their latest creation, the Alpha Tiny House, combines their expert construction skills with a Japanese technique for keeping fire, bacteria and fungi naturally at bay called Shou Sugi Ban.  This wood burning technique was applied to leftover cedar wood from a barn, while its cozy interiors make for a lovely contrast inside. Related: Towable Riverside tiny house packs every conventional amenity into 246 square feet   The interiors are where this home shines: filled with storage, transformable furniture, vintage and classic design pieces, as well as an eight-person dining table, it is surpisingly large. A hidden  loft bedroom also fits in the space, and a complete kitchen with the latest appliances shows living outdoors doesn’t always mean roughing it. The pop-up home is completed by a Jacuzzi tub, a modern shower, and composting toilet for a touch of modern-rustic. + New Frontier Tiny Homes Via My Modern Met

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Burnt wood-clad tiny home manages to pack a ton of luxury into just 240 square feet

Pine needle eyelashes, petal lipstick and other beauty tools from nature

September 2, 2016 by  
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In addition to flower plant petals, Murphy’s series includes an icicle beard, a thorn “grill”, pine needle eyelashes, and some mushroom body parts. Some images draw straightforward, satirical parallels between beauty products and natural materials, others blur the line between plant/human hybrid, and a mushroom augmentation suggests that if we really take in our consideration for nature, we acknowledge an expanded spectrum of gender, as well. Related: Amazing tree grows 40 different kinds of fruit The photos are fun and funky, celebrating natural forms while ironically commenting on beauty products (hopefully in a cruelty-free manner ). Check out the images for some truly perishable natural cosmetics.

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Pine needle eyelashes, petal lipstick and other beauty tools from nature

MIT researchers discover silk holds the key to vastly improved filtration

July 21, 2016 by  
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MIT and Tufts University researchers found silk is good for more than clothes, cool furniture , or bulletproof vests . They found a way to extract tiny silk building blocks, called nanofibrils, that vastly improve filtration techniques. Others attempted to extract these nanofibers in the past, but largely failed, and the researchers detailed their process to success in a paper published recently in the journal Nano Letters . These nanofibrils can be made into ” advanced filtration membranes ,” according to the researchers. In their paper, the scientists explained their four-step process, which involved exfoliating the silk, extracting nanofibrils via ultrasonic waves, and vacuum filtration. They utilized silk fibers made by domesticated silkworms. Related: Groundbreaking affordable, paper-thin filter removes viruses from water The new membranes are not only more effective for filtration, they’re more environmentally friendly. Used filters biodegrade, resulting in ” no lasting impact ,” according to MIT . The nanofibrils membranes are less expensive too: one piece costs between five and 51 cents, while a comparable piece of commercial membrane costs $1.20. The new membranes are very flexible and don’t dissolve in water, crucial for effective water filtration. The nanofibrils are also ” negatively charged at neutral pH ” which means they can snare positively charged molecules. MIT postdoc student Shengjie Ling said , “There has been a renewed focus recently on developing these types of ultrathin filtration membranes…The challenge has always been to create these new ultrathin and low-cost devices while retaining mechanical strength and good separation performance. Cast silk fibroin membranes aren’t an option, because they do not have porous structure and dissolve in water if not pretreated. We knew there had to be a better way.” The new membranes were designed in a collaboration between several different departments; material scientists and civil, computational, and biomedical engineers all worked together on the research. The new membranes could be used in research, food manufacturing, and to filter water . Via MIT News Images via the MIT/Tufts University researchers and Ed Schipul on Flickr

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