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Design for Germophobes: With a Gryp Keychain, You Don't Have to Touch Anything in Public

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-09-25 05:12

Mixed feelings on this product: On the one hand, I feel we should be exposed to a certain amount of germs, in order to keep our immune systems up to snuff. On the other hand, I've seen a child sneeze into his hand, then grab the subway pole without wiping his hand off first. I've also seen plenty of grown-ass men walking out of a public restroom without washing their hands, touching the doorknob on the way out. And that's just plain gross.

For the germophobes among you, the product in question is the Gryp Keychain. It is an admittedly clever use of materials, since silicone, which it's made of, is naturally bacteria-resistant. By simply putting it on a keychain to ensure it's always on hand, the designers have created a simple product that I think a lot of people will pony up $2.99 to buy.

Try 3D Face Reconstruction, Buy a Mask in Protest of Face Recognition, Attend Lectures on Toy Design and More 

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-09-25 05:12

The Core77 team spends time combing through the news so you don't have to. Here's a weekly roundup of our favorite finds from the World Wide Web:

Upload a photo of your face (or someone else's face) and this tool will produce a 3D model of the face that can be rotated and tilted in real time. Neat!

There's a new Supreme Court product design standard for lightbulbs.

Bike of the week: Plaff Designs' Squeeze Box.

Explore the endless possibilities of working with plastic at PLASTIC FANTASTIC.

The future is here and it brought us anti-face recognition masks from China. 

Successful toy designer Dexter Liu will be giving a handful of lectures at Pamlico Community College.

Why the Chicago Architecture Biennial isn't just for architects

People to Follow: Randy Lewis Creative (if you like puns).

Rock Paper Scissors except it's getting the work, doing the work, and running the business.

— Carly Ayres™ ?? (@carlyayres) September 18, 2017 "> TGIF.Epic shoe making process porn from the Victoria and Albert Museum.Hot Tip: Discover more blazin' hot Internet finds on our Twitter and Instagram pages.

Mid Century Modern Find of the Week: Brazilian Rosewood Sewing Cart with Wicker Basket

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-09-25 05:12

This Danish modern sewing cart was designed in an era when many households had sewing machines.

Castors allow the user to wheel it over to the work.

The top provides a worksurface on which fabrics or patterns can be laid.

The legs are designed with raised corners for an atomic look.

A handwoven wicker basket slides from either end and offers three black laminate lined trays to hold needles and notions. The lower tier provides additional storage.

The cart measures 30" long x 19" wide x 22" tall.


These "Mid Century Modern Find of the Week" posts are provided courtesy of Mid Century Møbler, which specializes in importing vintage Danish Modern and authentic Mid Century furniture from the 1950s and 1960s.

8 Student Design Concepts Aiming to Enhance Quality of Life

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-09-25 05:12

Model Solutions' annual Model One Awards (MOAs) recognize industrial design students who challenge themselves and develop products that enhance quality of life, improve safety, disrupt current technologies and utilize new design concepts in exciting ways. 

Through the MOAs, students from design schools across the country are given the opportunity to showcase their skills, creativity and originality. Universities and design schools, on the other hand, are given a platform to gain visibility as leading design institutions.

The 2017 MOA winners were recently presented at the IDSA 2017 Conference in Atlanta. These eight students from various institutions across the United States represent the best of the best when it comes to prototyping new design concepts. If you didn't get a chance to view these designs in person at the IDSA Conference, here's a closer look at the projects and how the selected students are working to address current design problems.

Andrew Keel — NC State University

Keel's Duo-Shock taser is a non-lethal self/home defense alternative that features a built-in camera. The taser is designed to incapacitate an assailant without taking a life.

Ben Stibal — Purdue University 

Respire is a customizable respirator with a built-in fan to remove heat and ensure users don't re-breath the same air

Juliette Laroche — University of Houston 

Laroche's Innsaei scuba diving mask increases communication capabilities between divers.

Loren Chen — University of Notre Dame

The Homegrown indoor composting solution helps gardeners monitor what they put in their compost bin

Mike Jacobs — Arizona State University 

Zero is a wearable device that aids athletic performance by strengthening an athletes focus on clear and achievable goals

Samuel Ach — Metropolitan State University of Denver 

Cybex Mono is a next generation functional weight training platform that maximizes versatility and heightens user engagement through the integration of physical and digital experiences.

Shannon Chang — University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign 

PRELUDE is a Bluetooth Speaker System that has a 2-way communication feature like a pair of walkie talkies.

Shubham Harish — Detroit College for Creative Studies

Echo canine prosthetic leg is designed to restore a dog's natural abilities, including balance and mobility.

Learn more about the Model One Awards here

A Face Mask Designed to Optimize Airflow to People with Sleep Apnea

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-09-25 05:12

HSD Ventures is currently developing LOA™, a lightweight and innovative full-face CPAP mask and app aimed at providing simplicity, comfort, and optimized airflow to people living with Sleep Apnea. Unlike traditional masks, which typically involve tubing extending from the front of the face, LOA’s pressurized air flows from the nose cup through tube channels flanking the patient’s cheekbones. The tube channels comfortably route around the user’s ears and terminate in an easily accessible location under the chin. By keeping the tube paths close to the body, patients can change sleeping positions easier allowing for a more comfortable and restful sleep.

View the full content here

Reader Submitted: Roll into the Weekend with this Solar Powered Planting System on Wheels 

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-09-25 05:12

Bike Share Farm is a solar-powered planting system on wheels. Placed atop two interconnected bicycles, this hydroponic farm is cycled from place to place, bringing the experience of urban farming to a wider community. Inspired by bike share systems, the frame of the Bike Share Farm allows for bicycles to be interchangeable. At each stop a new cyclist can attach his bike to the structure, replacing the existing bike.

View the full project here

Tinda Finger is an Invention Designed for Sad, Desperate Singles

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-09-25 05:12

Those of us who have seen the Tinder Meat Robot video from a couple years past know that it is nothing short of sweet, satirical gold: 

A robot created by artist Marcelo Gómez Moreira in 2015, this visceral allegory spoke to our worst behaviors exacerbated by technology—it's nauseating. It's snarky. Who would want to try to swipe right on every person they encounter on Tinder? What a joke, right?

As it turns out, no—no it is not, as a few engineering-savvy lads from London are now Kickstarting a product called Tinda Finger, which I can only imagine was inspired by Moreira's work after being interpreted in entirely the wrong way. 

I know what some of you will say: "relax, they're just having a little fun!" But something about this Kickstarter ad feels a little too genuine. Go ahead and watch to decide:

Apparently, the average user spends 90 minutes a day swiping on dating apps so it's built to help you get back your time. Less swiping means more time for L-I-V-I-N. And while the quest for more automation may be a noble cause, I'd like to argue that if there's anything we shouldn't automate, it's sex and dating.

That said, the Kickstarter has fifteen days left and I will probably buy it for a White Elephant party.

Convincingly Futuristic Designs: How FBFX Tackles Spacesuits for Hollywood

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-09-25 05:12

Of all the things you could pursue with a degree in industrial design, working for a place like FBFX has got to be one of the most interesting. This UK-based design and fabrication house, which has access to toys like a 7-axis robotic milling machine, a plastics manufacturing shop and metalworking facilities, is responsible for producing what they call Special Effects Costumes for the film and entertainment industries.

This includes items like fully-articulated space suits for movies like The Martian and Alien: Covenant. You might think that freed from the responsibility of designing a suit that would actually keep one alive in outer space, the designers would be relieved of some pressure. But they do have to actually create something that's not only visually convincing and suitably futuristic, but that an actor can actually wear and move around in, sometimes for hours, sometimes suspended from cables.

Solving for those three issues requires a fairly fanatical level of attention to detail, ergonomics considerations and mechanical problem solving.

Here Tested's Adam Savage visits FBFX's facility, where Project Manager Tom Streatfield-Moore, the company's head of CAD, goes over some of their incredibly convincing and functional spacesuits from Covenant. It is a shame we didn't get to see some of these details on-screen:

Insane DIY Spiral-Action Chainsaw-Wielding Automatic Tree Trimmer

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-09-25 05:12

The anonymous chap behind Hand Tool Rescue restores old tools and gets them into the hands of people who can use them. I'll get to him in a minute. First I've got to show you this insane DIY automatic tree trimmer that he posted on his Instagram:

I wish the damn video wouldn't auto-repeat because I become easily mesmerized by such things. I think I let it loop four times before I snapped out of it.

It's not known who created the contraption, but if you're interested in seeing unusual and old-school tools--a hand-cranked grinder, a gas-powered circular saw, a hand-cranked bandsaw, etc.--go from broken to fixed, click on over to Hand Tool Rescue's YouTube channel. Warning, though: Rabbit hole ahead.

Hand Tool School #46: Don't Tear Up Over Tear Out

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-09-25 05:12

I get a lot of questions about tear out. (I know, you're jealous of my life.) Specifically I get questions about ways to alter a plane or features of a new plane that will prevent tear out. I have already talked about my views on bells and whistles on tools on this blog but I think it needs repeating.

Tear out is not a mystical event whose roots lie in the deep past only understood by some monk high up in a cave on the side of the Matterhorn (and I do mean the one at Disneyland). Tear out is an indication of 1 of 3 things:

- You went the wrong way in relation to the wood grain
- Your blade needs sharpening
- You're taking too deep of a cut

Yes, maybe I'm over simplifying here but I think that is a good thing. While things like mass and blade angle and whether the plane was built on a Tuesday evening after a meteor shower can help make tear out less of an issue, the above 3 things are ALWAYS in play.

Let's look at an example:

I'm jointing the edge of some very curly Cherry panels for a blanket chest I'm making in The Hand Tool School. The grain direction is indeterminate from looking at the face grain so I take a pass in the direction I think is right.

I always say the best way to read the grain direction is to take a plane pass. If it tears and jumps around, go the other way.

The plane shudders a bit and jumps down the length of the board leaving torn grain behind it. Guess what? I went the wrong way. So I change direction and go the other way and the plane goes kinda smoothly along the edge leaving a mostly smooth surface with small patches of torn grain in the darker curly parts. Welcome to figured wood. There is a prevailing grain direction but even then you get these little switchbacks that exposed end grain and change the direction of the fibers constantly. It is these little hiccups that give up the lovely figure and chatoyance we prize so much.

Well I've got the direction of the plane pass right now, what's next?

Sharpening the blade should be a given. It makes work easier and cleaner and whenever tear out shows up that should be the first thing you do. A razor sharp blade eliminates tear out easily in all but the most ornery of woods. Grab any rusty hunk of plane and put a razor sharp blade in it and you will be surprised how well it deals with that torn grain.

But's here's the rub. I just sharpened this blade. I know its sharp. The still slowly oozing cut on my left pinky is a testament to that when I carelessly nicked it while putting the blade back into the plane.

Finally I grab my mallet and tap the body of the plane, reducing the depth of cut. Reset the wedge and take a pass. The pitch changes dramatically going up a few steps on the Mixolydian scale (I only plane to medieval musical scales) and the action of the plane smooths out. You can see the difference in my shavings coming out of the plane. The new ones have more of a gossamer quality to them and are much longer as the plane cuts through the end grain sections instead of stuttering and creating shorter shavings.

A few more passes of the plane and here is what I have now. Remember you have to plane to the bottom of the potholes created by the original tear out before you can gauge if it is working.

Problem solved. No need for fancy bevel angles or swapping frogs for a higher pitch. Sharpen, change directions, and lighten the cut.

There will always be a board that will put up more of a fight than this one. Exotic, jungle wood for instance is much harder to deal with. But at its heart I think you will find some variation of these three elements will solve your problem.


This "Hand Tool School" series is provided courtesy of Shannon Rogers, a/k/a The Renaissance Woodworker. Rogers is founder of The Hand Tool School, which provides members with an online apprenticeship that teaches them how to use hand tools and to build furniture with traditional methods.

Ikea/Space 10 Demonstrate How a Miracle Crop Can be Integrated Into Architecture

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-09-25 05:12

Imagine living millennia ago, in a time when you've never seen a horse. Everywhere you and your tribe go is by walking. Then one of you discovers horses and figures out how to ride one. Now you've discovered the perfect sustainable transportation system. 

Horses eat grass, which is free. That fuel gives them the energy to carry you a helluva lot further than if you were walking. Eventually they poop, and their poop fertilizes the ground, which then grows more grass. It's a circular system, and now you and your tribe have vastly extended your range.

While horses are no longer a viable transportation source, we need to continue discovering circular systems in order for our ever-increasing population to sustain itself. A horse's fuel, grass, was both abundant and largely worthless to us, but by eating it they provided us with something useful in the form of long-range transportation. In essence, we got something for nothing.

Something else that's both abundant and useless to us is carbon dioxide. CO2 is not only useless, it's a problem. But carbon dioxide is very useful to microscopic algae, who need it to grow and do their handy photosynthesis thing where they give us free fresh oxygen. (Algae produces about 75% of Earth's oxygen.)

And there's another bonus to microalgae: There are edible varieties, like Spirulina, which are nutrient-rich and contain 60% protein. (Beef contains about 25% protein, for scale.) We can eat it for fuel. And Spirulina is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. It can also be used to feed livestock, which again provides us with fuel, albeit with an extra step.

[Infomercial voice] But wait, there's more!

Microalgae is fast-growing, with some variants able to double their volume in just six hours. Microalgae can be grown in non-potable water and in soil that's too barren for us to farm.

Let's re-cap:Microalgae Pluses- Requires little (CO2, sunlight, water) to grow
- Provides free oxygen
- Edible, nutrient- and protein-rich
- Fast-growingMicroalgae Minuses- It's green, and some people don't like the color green

To promote the benefits of microalgae, Ikea's Space10 think tank/skunkworks developed the Algae Dome. Created by bio-engineer Keenan Pinto and architects Aleksander Wadas, Rafal Wroblewski and Anna Stempniewicz, the Algae Dome, a finalist for the CHART Architecture design competition held in Copenhagen this month, shows how a microalgae-growing apparatus can be integrated into architecture. Here's how it works:

Reader Submitted: Designing the Interior of a Transforming Autonomous Vehicle

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-09-25 05:12

The French car manufacturer Renault has approached me to design interior fabrics for the visionary Renault SYMBIOZ concept car and home. I translated Renault's needs into woven form and created a new version of Bloko, a 3D fabric. The new Bloko in two shades of grey covers the car seats and the upholstery of the large sofa in the home, uniting the two spaces and giving them a touch of warmth and a reassuring feel.

View the full project here

How to Achieve the Low Cost of Sandcasting with the Complexity of 3D Printing

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-09-25 05:12

As far as mass production methods go, sand casting is one of the oldest. 3D printing is one of the newest. Dutch design and engineering consultancy Arup has figured out how to combine the two, allowing one to enjoy both the low cost of the former and the physical complexity enabled by the latter.

Arup, with the help of digital manufacturing firm 3Dealise, has worked out a method of 3D printing sand molds that have the voids right in them. There's no need to create a physical pattern to form the molds around, and no need to insert separate cores for parts that have undercuts. Instead it's basically design, print, pour.

To understand what this means for design and manufacturing, consider the project that spurred Arup to develop this technique in the first place. The company was working on a project where they needed to create "a trio of large tensegrity structures designed for a shopping street in The Hague. Having integrated street lighting, they were called 'urban chandeliers'. Due to the irregular shape of the structures most of the 1,600 nodes, connecting the cables to the struts, were different. This required 'uniqueness' inspired us to learn more about additive manufacturing."

Here's what they came up with:

To explain, all three of these "are all designed to carry the same structural loads and forces." You can see that the one on the left was conventionally welded together. The one in the center was 3D-printed using DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering). The one on the right was produced using their 3D-printed sandcasting mold procedure. It is not only smaller, but is more efficient to produce than the first two, particularly if 1,600 units with design variants must be produced.

"An interesting shift is taking place," says Salomé Galjaard, Arup Senior Designer. "Whereas the focus initially has been on printing final products, 3D-printing is being applied in an earlier phase in the production process. The aim is to make the most of the freedom-of-form opportunities of 3D-printing without the limitations which are now still considered with production."

Arup will be presenting the results of the project at the upcoming TCT Show, which is focused on 3D printing, additive manufacturing at product development. It will take place from September 26th-28th in Birmingham (UK, sorry Alabama).

Design Job: Get Crafty as a Product Designer at Michaels in Irving, TX

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-09-25 05:12

The Michaels Companies, Inc., is North America’s largest arts and crafts specialty retailer, with more than 1,340 stores in the United States and Canada. Our store team, distribution and manufacturing center team, and support center team work together to help our customers bring their creativity to life. We offer career growth, benefits packages, retirement plans, tuition reimbursement, and more. Michaels Team Members also enjoy a wide variety of ways to save including discounts at our stores, s

View the full design job here

The NYPD's Newest Vehicles

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-09-25 05:12

HBO's new series "The Deuce" depicts the crime-ridden NYC of the early '70s. Back then the police cars looked like this:

[Image credit: Screenshotted from YouTube video by Joseph John Ramos.] [Image credit: Screenshotted from YouTube video by Joseph John Ramos.]

That's a 1971 Plymouth Fury. American cars of the era were of course massive, and the models that police departments chose for their fleets were meant to project authority. I didn't grow up in a particularly bad neighborhood, but I still remember that when I was a kid and the NYPD cruisers rolled through, both the cruiser and the men inside were kinda scary.

Modern-day New York City is a very different place, with crime at historic lows. The NYPD has been seeking for years to counter a negative perception of police, and in my own anecdotal experience, the officers I occasionally encounter are generally approachable and friendly. As a stark reminder of these two things, this morning I saw this:

Those "cruisers" are all parked just a few blocks away from Core77's NYC office, in nearby Little Italy. The Feast of San Gennaro festival, where a half-dozen blocks have been closed to street traffic and covered in food stalls, is currently in full swing. As with all post-9/11 mass gatherings in New York City, the police presence is visibly ubiquitous, with officers on every corner and an NYPD mobile command center truck monitoring everything.

The Smart cars caught my attention and I checked 'em out up close. Up top they've got a light bar, albeit a tiny one with just three lights. Behind the lights is a rear-facing LED message display.

Inside I saw two things that puzzled me: One was that there's no shotgun, but in its place, the orange glassbreaker you see at the bottom of the photo. The other is the red sticker that says "SINGLE OCCUPANCY ONLY." I checked the other cars in the row and all of them have it.

So I looked it up, and these NYPD Smart cars aren't cruisers at all. Instead the department recently acquired them for parking enforcement duties, which explains the glassbreaker; if an officer comes across a car where someone has left their child or dog inside on a hot day, their liberation is just one whack away.

The Smart cars are meant to replace what my friends and I used to call the ice-cream scooters, because they looked like something that a vendor would serve ice cream out of the back of. I'm referring to these:

Those three-wheelers are used for both parking enforcement and park and festival duty, as they can zip around and get an officer over to areas where the cruisers can't fit. And as crappy as they look, they can cost up to a whopping $27,000 each, Deputy Commissioner Robert Martinez of the NYPD's Support Services Bureau told the Daily News. In contrast the NYPD purchased nine trial Smart cars for $13,000 a pop--and they have both air conditioning and airbags, both of which the scooters lack.

The lower price of the Smart cars works great for Martinez, but some of his fellow officers were less enthused, according to CBS News:

"When you went to the command staff and said, 'I want to add Smart cars,' what did they say?" CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave asked. "They said no," NYPD deputy commissioner Robert Martinez said. "They said the car looks wimpy."

Martinez prevailed, and the NYPD now has nearly 200 Smart cars spread over all five boroughs. The Times reports that they actually cost $23,400, nearly a $10,000 difference from what the Daily News reported that the trial cars cost, and I assume the extra ten grand is for the livery, radio, light bar, et cetera.

The cars have become so ubiquitous that Martinez himself now refers to them as "scooters," apparently cementing their replacement of the three-wheelers. And NYPD policy prevents the Smart cars from engaging in pursuits or taking up the role of the traditional cruisers. "When you call 911," Martinez told the Times, "a scooter's not coming."

While it appears that the Smart cars were purchased for economic reasons, there has been a side effect of putting them on the road:

The Smart car is quite possibly the only one that has its picture routinely shared on social media, described as "adorable" or, in the case of one parked in the West Village, "Cuuuuuute." --the TimesThe cuddly cruiser is proving to be a hit, and the public can't seem to get enough. From small and mighty to the world's cutest police car, the pictures are generating social media buzz. It makes a park full of strangers approach a police car and the officer like they're old friends. --CBS

You do have to admit they present a very different appearance to cop cars of old.

Here's a short clip of Casey Neistat encountering one of the Smart cars and breaking the officers' balls:

10 Cutting-Edge Disaster Relief Technologies

Design News - Mon, 2017-09-25 04:30
The Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) is back in Silicon Valley and it’s bigger than ever. Over three days, Dec. 5-7, 2017, receive in-depth education geared to drive a year’s worth of work. Uncover software design innovation, hardware breakthroughs, fresh IoT trends, product demos, and more that will change how you spend time and money on your next project. Click here to register today



Chris Wiltz is a senior editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including VR/AR, AI, and robotics.

Solar-Cell Material Defects Can Be Healed by Light, Humidity

Design News - Mon, 2017-09-25 02:46

An international research team has discovered that defects in the crystalline structure of perovskite—which is used to make solar cells—can be healed permanently by exposing them to light, improving the material in its generation of solar energy.

This discovery—made by a team from the universities of Cambridge, MIT, Oxford, Bath, and Delft and built on work by some of the same researchers from last year—has implications for accelerating the development of perovskite-based solar cells with efficiencies on par with silicon-based cells, they said.

Perovskite—a calcium titanium oxide mineral composed of calcium titanate—is being eyed as a leading next-generation material in a type of solar cells called thin-film. Perovskite has advantages over materials used to develop these solar cells today, including higher efficiency and lower cost in the production of the cells.

One drawback to these types of cells, however, is that much efficiency is lost through defects, said Sam Stranks, who led the research while a joint fellow at MIT and Cambridge. Indeed, small defects in the crystalline structure of perovskites--called traps--can cause electrons to get “stuck” before their energy can be harnessed, he said. Stranks is now a researcher at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory.


An international group of researchers has shown that defects in the molecular structure of perovskite (shown here)--a material which many see as the future of solar cell industry--can be “healed” by exposing the material to light and just the right amount of humidity. (Source: University of Cambridge)


The easier it is for electrons to move around in a solar-cell material, the more efficient that material will be at converting photons, or particles of light harvested from sunlight, into electricity, Stranks said. “We want to know the origins of the defects so that we can eliminate them and make perovskites more efficient,” he said.

Last year, Stranks and his team published a paper outlining their discovering that iodide ions—or atoms stripped of an electron so they carry an electric charge—migrate away from the illuminated region of perovskite material when it’s exposed to light. In this process, they take away most of the defects in that region along with them.

The problem with the study last year is that the effects were temporary; when the light was removed, the ions migrated back, taking the defects with them, Stranks said.

For the most recent research, the team made a perovskite-based device using techniques compatible with scalable roll-to-roll processes. However, before they completed the device, they exposed it to light, oxygen, and humidity, he said.

While humidity typically degrades perovskites, researchers found that when humidity levels were between 40 percent and 50 percent, and exposure limited to 30 minutes, there was no degradation, Stranks said. They deposited the remaining layers of the device after completing the exposure.

“It’s counter-intuitive, but applying humidity and light makes the perovskite solar cells more luminescent, a property which is extremely important if you want efficient solar cells,” he said.

When researchers applied light to the new device, electrons bound with oxygen--which formed a superoxide that can bind to electron traps and prevent them from impeding the movement of electrons. The perovskite surface, accompanied by water, also converted to a protective shell, which both removes defects from the surfaces while also locking in the superoxide.

What all this means for the perovskite-based cell is that the performance improvements achieved by correcting the defects are now long-lived, Stranks said.

“We’ve seen an increase in luminescence efficiency from one percent to 89 percent, and we think we could get it all the way to 100 percent, which means we could have no voltage loss,” he said. “But there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Researchers published their new findings in the inaugural edition of the journal Joule, published by Cell Press.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years.

UMD and U.S. Army Research Lab Engineers Develop 4.0 Aqueous Lithium-Ion Battery

Design News - Fri, 2017-09-22 05:04

The lithium-ion batteries that power most of our devices today are little powerhouses of energy. It’s estimated that they’re contained in about nine billion portable electronic devices globally.

The batteries are relatively simple, consisting of two electrodes (anode and cathode) separated by electrolyte. Unfortunately, they’re also flammable, toxic and sensitive to ambient atmosphere, which has made them unsuitable for large-scale applications or extreme environments.

Significant efforts in engineering have reduced the risk of fire and explosion in portable devices, but a few well-publicized cases occur every year. This has inspired extensive research to mitigate or eliminate the risk. In some cases, it has led to attempts to create an aqueous lithium-ion battery that uses water as a natural replacement for typical flammable non-aqueous solvents.

While aqueous lithium-ion batteries that won’t explode have been developed in the past, they’ve typically not been able to compete with their non-aqueous competitors in terms of energy density because of the narrow electrochemical stability window of water: essentially, what makes it safe limits its power. Previous efforts have run into what’s known as a “cathodic challenge” because the aqueous batteries were inherently unable to use the most ideal anode materials such as graphite and Li metal.

Now, researchers from the University of Maryland and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory have developed a new water-based lithium-ion battery that can reach the critical 4.0 volt threshold without the danger of explosion and fire inherent in non-aqueous lithium-ion batteries. The research is built on a new class of aqueous electrolyte, “water-in-salt” electrolytes (WiSE), named for their high salt concentration.


Researchers from the University of Maryland and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory have developed a new water-based lithium-ion battery that can reach the critical 4.0 volt threshold without the danger of explosion and fire inherent in non-aqueous lithium-ion batteries.


The prototype UMD/USARML battery uses an aqueous solid-electrolyte-interphase (SEI) that stabilizes graphite and lithium-metal anodes in the aqueous electrolyte. The research team was able to get around the “cathodic challenge” with what they call an “inhomogeneous additive” approach: a fluorinated additive immiscible with aqueous electrolyte in the form of a gel was applied on anode surfaces to act as an interphase precursor coating to reduce the competitive water reduction during interphase formation (essentially minimizing water molecules at the anode surface before the SEI forms, creating a favorable environment for interphase.) The protective coating permitted high-capacity/low-potential anode materials to couple with different cathode materials to produce batteries with higher efficiency.

Co-senior author of the research Dr. Kang Xu, an Army Research Laboratory fellow who specializes in materials science and electrochemistry, told Design News that what the team did was eliminate the fuel in a lithium-ion battery.

“The risk of explosion comes from thermal run-away due to abuse, which results in the catching fire of non-aqueous electrolytes (the risk comes from the combination of high energy electrode and flammable electrolytes),” he said. “By making electrolytes aqueous, we removed ‘fuel’ from the combination.”

While most of us put down our devices and rest them on occasion, devices used in a military setting, for example, may often be used to “abuse” levels. For these critical applications, the research tea sought to create a battery with improved thermal and chemical stability that can be safely pushed to its limits during intense use.

The main challenge to create this battery was finding a way to enhance the cycle life from approximately 80 cycles to 500 to 1000 cycles. Previous efforts to create a high-power aqueous Li-ion battery, including a 3.0 volt battery created by the same research team in 2015, resulted in batteries that either had low energy density or were not intrinsically safe due to solid-electrolyte protected aqueous Li metal cells that presented the risk of fire if the protected layer was broken. The new prototype eliminates both drawbacks.

“We use a solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) to separate a water-in-salt electrolyte from a graphite anode,” Dr. Chunsheng Wang, a professor of chemical and nuclear engineering at the University of Maryland, told Design News. “The SEI can self-heal and the reaction between lithiated graphite with the water-in-salt electrolyte is very slow even if the SEI is broken. The unique approach of inhomogeneous electrolyte additive expels water from the electrode surface, and forms a dense protection that stabilizes water at the extreme potential of four volts.”

Once Xu and Wang, together with UMD assistant research scientist Chongyin Yang, developed the prototypes, extensive abuse testing of the batteries was carried out, including puncturing charged cells with a nail to initiate a short circuit. Under testing, the batteries produced no fire or smoke, unlike their conventional Li-ion cell counterparts which became dangerous due to direct contact between the metal and the electrolyte.  

In addition to military uses, the new batteries will likely find significant applications in the aerospace industries or in any place where safety outweighs the concerns of energy density or battery cycle life, such as confined spaces such as submarines. The team’s next steps, according to Drs. Wang and Xu, will be to perfect the interphase chemistry to extend the cycle life of the aqueous batteries, and demonstrate that they are intrinsically nonflammable by making larger cells. With more research and the right funding, the batteries could be ready for commercial markets within five years.

The team’s research was published in the September 6, 2017 issue of Joule.

New Material Cuts Weight of Vehicle Window and Door Seals

Design News - Fri, 2017-09-22 02:26

A new elastomer shows promise as a lighter, more durable sealing material for vehicle doors and windows.

Known as Fortrex, the material offers the potential for cutting as much as eight pounds from the mass of a typical sport utility vehicle (SUV), while featuring better compression-set characteristics than thermoplastics. “It’s not a synthetic rubber and it’s not a thermoplastic, but it works,” Chris Couch, vice president of innovation and global product line strategy for Cooper Standard, told Design News. “It gives a 30% weight reduction over rubber and it doesn’t compression-set over time.”

The material, introduced late last year, is already being employed inside the doors of the new Lincoln Continental to guide the movement of window glass. It’s also going to be used in two new, unnamed SUV programs to be introduced in 2018.


Fortex sealing material is used on a “below the belt” assembly inside the doors of the new Lincoln Continental. (Source: Cooper Standard)


Key applications for the new technology include so-called “glass runs” and metal-to-metal sealing between vehicle doors and bodies, as well as for seals in hood-to-body interfaces.

The culmination of a four-year development program, Fortrex started out as an effort to create a lightweight sealing material with good weatherability. For more than a half-century prior to its development, vehicle engineers had typically chosen EPDM (ethyl propylene diene monomer) rubber, which exhibited desirable performance characteristics, but was heavy. More recently, some automakers switched to TPV (thermoplastic vulcanizates) as a way of reducing weight. But TPVs also had drawbacks, Couch said.

“As TPV sits in a vehicle over months and years, it degrades -- it begins to lose its original shape,” he said. “Whereas, rubber seals up very nicely, but it’s heavy. So we asked ourselves, ‘What can we make that isn’t heavy and doesn’t degrade over time?’”

Finding a solution wasn’t easy, however. Better compression-set characteristics were typically accompanied by greater density and reduced manufacturability. Cooper Standard material scientists solved those problems, however, by employing a “polymeric cross-linking” process in the elastomer’s chemistry.

“The chemistry breakthroughs got the density down and good old-fashioned mechanical engineering gave us an extrusion process that worked well,” Couch said.

The development effort appears to be paying dividends for Cooper Standard, as well as automakers. A typical SUV saves about 5.7 lbs by using Fortrex in glass runs, and two more pounds by employing it in body seals, Couch said.

The company also plans to market the material as a replacement for coolant hoses in automobiles. Today, most vehicles use EPDM for such applications, largely because EPDM holds up well in the presence of high under-hood temperatures. Couch said that Fortex could do the same, while offering a significant weight reduction of EPDM.

Ultimately, the company may also target the material at building construction applications, such as sealing of glass panels on skyscrapers and as a replacement for EPDM roofing materials.

For now, however, the biggest application is in the automotive industry. Couch said the company is talking to electric carmakers, who want to use it to reduce the wind noise that typically enters vehicles through glass runs. There, he said, it could provide noise reduction of approximately 2 dB, when compared to aging TPV.

Most important, however, is the material’s ability to reduce weight. Given the industry’s emphasis on fuel efficiency, Couch said, lightweighting has become more critical than at any time in the automobile’s history. “This product space is ripe for innovation,” he told us. “And we believe this is a game-changing lightweighting solution.”

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 33 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.


Code Quality Is Key to Securing the Connected Car

Join Jay Thomas, director of field engineering for LDRA, as he discusses the vulnerabilities of connected automobiles at the upcoming ARM TechCon, Oct. 24-26, 2017 in Santa Clara, CA. Thomas will describe recent hacks, and then walk audiences through the tools and techniques that can be used to protect future vehicles in a technical session, titled “Code Quality Is Key to Securing the Connected Car.” Register here for the event, hosted by Design News’ parent company UBM.


Cradle to Cradle Product Design Challenge's 6th Round is Now Open

Core 77 - Fri, 2017-09-22 02:22

The Cradle to Cradle Product Design Challenge incentivizes and inspires the design community to envision viable product design solutions for the circular economy, powered by Cradle to Cradle® design principles and certified materials. The final round in a series of six design challenges to run through early 2018, this challenge is presented by the Institute in partnership with Autodesk, with support from Arconic Foundation. To date, the Challenge series has received more than 466 entries from 406 designers in 30 countries.

Past Best Student Project & Best Use of Aluminum: MyEcoWall by Caterina Vianna and Ferran Gesa, Eina University Center of Arts and Design

"The Design Challenge is an engaging opportunity to reconsider the way we design and make products from a place of abundance, while eliminating the concept of waste," said Lewis Perkins, president of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. "The competition gives designers and students a chance to develop innovative solutions to challenges they see in the world. We are proud to educate, inspire, and empower the next generation to participate and activate these principles in their work."

The Institute will award prizes across the following categories: Best Overall Project, Best Use of Cradle to Cradle Certified Materials, Best Use of Autodesk Fusion 360 software, and Best Use of Aluminum, and each prize will receive promotion through media channels and $2,000 US—and projects have the chance to win multiple categories for winnings of up to $8000.

Submissions for the sixth Cradle to Cradle Product Design Challenge are being accepted from September 12th through December 1st, 2017. Winners will be announced in January.

There is no entry fee for the Challenge. To be eligible, entrants must complete a free two-hour online course, Designing Cradle to Cradle Certified Products for the Circular Economy.

Entries are invited across four categories:
· Best Overall Project
· Best Use of Cradle to Cradle Certified Materials
· Best Use of Autodesk Fusion 360
· Best Use of Aluminum

Applications for Cradle to Cradle must be submitted by December 1, 2017. Get started here! View previous winners here.