A new palette of next-generation high-tech materials – coupled with new business concepts – is empowering designers to push the outer limits of the possible in fields like electronics, biomedicine, architecture, consumer products, fashion and a host of other disciplines.
Examples include: the flexible battery, spun from fibers that let it bend and fold; colored conductive inks that can conduct electricity in more than just printed silver and carbon; and using graphene nanocoatings to make thinner, lighter, stronger, longer lasting smartphone batteries.
Materials science has always been at the the industrial core of the semiconductor technology revolution. Now, a new age of material breakthoughs, including those described in the article below, is dawning across dozens of industries.
11 Exciting New Materials Designers Should Watch | Co.Design | business + design
Flexible batteries, Velcro metal, colorful conductive inks, and more.
John Brownlee 11.14.16 8:00 AM
Andrew Dent, vice president of library and materials research at Material ConneXion, is like a sommelier. Presiding over the world\’s largest library of materials, his job is to listen to the requirements of his clients—a list which includes Armani, Chrysler, Calvin Klein, Hermann Miller, Disney, Nike, Toyota, and many, many more—and come up with an innovative material that suits their needs. His level of obsession in this field is such that he makes Apple’s Jonathan Ive, a fellow Brit, seem like he\’s never done his homework.
During Fast Company\s Innovation Festival earlier this month, we caught up with Dent during a tour of Material ConneXion’s materials library, and asked him to identify a handful of the cutting-edge materials that he thought would be important to designers over the next few years.
One hundred times stronger than steel, amazingly light, nearly transparent, and capable of efficient heat and electrical conductivity, graphene has applications in solar power, electronics, biomedicine, and more. But it’s a relatively difficult material to work with and mass-manufacture in its purest forms. Graphene nanocoating allows other materials to be coated with the material, giving them most of graphene\s best qualities cheaply and efficiently. One possible industrial design use is using graphene nanocoating to help make thinner, lighter, stronger smartphones with better battery life.
Karta-Pack (Cotton Fiber)
This 100% post-consumer material, which has the feel of cotton but the rigidity of plastic, is made from recycled cotton fibers, sourced from the likes of discarded jeans and T-shirts. In addition to helping recycle millions of articles of clothing per year, Karta-Pack feels fairly luxurious, making it an interesting choice for high-end packaging. Imagine unpackaging a gadget from what feels like rigid cotton. Dent also suggests that furniture designers could end up using Karta-Pack to create molded furniture designs that feel like fabric, even though they\’re strong enough to support a person\’s weight.
Colored Conductive Inks
Although we’ve had inks that can conduct electricity for years now, these inks only come in two colors: silver and carbon. It gives conductive inks an aesthetic, says Dent, that has “no real beauty for non-engineers.” A new breakthrough, however, has finally made it possible for conductive inks to come in any color you want. One potential use is in smart clothing and wearables. Imagine a jacket with an attractive design printed on the sleeve that also functioned, when you touched it, as a way of controlling your iPhone.