This technology could lead to objects with tune-able surface texture. Pedro Reis/MIT
Wrinkles aren’t usually an aspect of the future that gets people excited. But fast cars are. And someday we might have cars that can accelerate more quickly, and efficiently, by morphing their surface texture through the mechanics of wrinkling.
Speed-enhancing body wrinkles on your Tesla are still years away, but researchers at MIT have created what could be the first step: a ball with morphable surface texture. They were able to get their creation, which they call a smorph (short for smart morphable surface), to wrinkle into a dimpled pattern similar to a golf ball’s, with similar aerodynamic properties.
Smorphs are sort of like raisins. As the soft inside of a grape dries out, the stiffer skin can’t shrink with it. Instead, it develops wrinkles to conform around the reduced volume. Smorphs don’t dry out (they also make terrible snacks), but the volume of a smorph can be similarly reduced by sucking air out of its hollow core. That core is surrounded by different polymers: a thick, squishy layer covered by relatively stiff outer skin. As the core shrinks, the squishy layer is soft enough to contract smoothly, but the skin is forced to wrinkle.
The trick is controlling exactly how a smorph wrinkles. MIT mechanical engineer Pedro Reis, the material’s lead inventor, studies how wrinkling and other types of structural failures can be made useful. He says the first step toward controlling the wrinkling of a smorph is making the squishy base layer thick enough that the sphere doesn’t crumple like a ping pong ball. From there, they can tune the pattern of the wrinkles by changing the thickness of the outer skin. Dimples form when the skin is one-tenth to one-hundredth of the sphere’s radius.
The dimpling isn’t a pre-designed pattern. It’s the natural way the Smorphs’ skin collapses when air in the center is sucked out. Pedro Reis/MIT
Because the smorph dimples look so much like those on a golf ball’s surface, the researchers were inspired to test their creation in a wind tunnel. It’s well established that a golf ball’s dimples help it fly further. Air passing over the dimples creates a bunch of tiny vortices. Rather than slowing the ball down, these vortices create a thin, turbulent sheath that the surrounding air can’t cling to. The result is lower drag.
Sure enough, when the researchers tested the smorph in a wind tunnel, they found that it was about twice as aerodynamically efficient when dimpled.
But the sheath of vortices only forms at relatively low speeds. If a golf ball were to fly fast enough, it would be better off with a smooth skin. This is where smorphs could offer a huge advantage.
“What our system lets you do is tune the drag between the two extremes,” Reis said. Because of their size, golf balls rarely reach a speed when the dimples are less efficient. But something bigger, like a car, could be more fuel efficient with a few strategically placed morphable surfaces that would be dimpled at slower speeds and smooth when the car speeds up.
Earlier this year, Reis won an NSF grant to keep developing smorphs, which he hopes to someday scale up to use on cars, aircraft, and even buildings. He’s optimistic, but says this is probably a long way off. One problem is that hexagonal dimples are unstable on flat surfaces. So far smorphs have only been used on a round, ball shape, but Reis and his co-authors believe they can figure out how to reproduce the pattern on slightly curved surfaces. Creating the same aerodynamic dimpling on a car’s complex curves will be even more challenging.
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An uncompromising, visionary architect struggles to maintain his integrity and individualism despite personal, professional and economic pressures to conform to popular standards.
Good city to live in is a place where the city anticipates needs and creates
opportunities for habitants to develop themselves. City where people can feel free and besides economical, energetic, ecologic or logistic factors takes care of creating human conditions to live. Awareness, that architecture is designed above all for the people seams to be forgotten. The human factor is taking under consideration even by economists because they indicates quality of life in the country by the level of happiness1 of citizens.
“Los Angeles, metropolis, city of vexed citizens” – lyrics and photo of The Narrow Path – Blu song.
Sometimes it is worth to look at everyday’s life so you can see that the cities do not look after today’s problems. Nowadays we receive and send back a lot amount of data and it seams like we just need large flow of information through our everyday life via applications, social networks or programs which are inherent part of our life’s. Big data era, in which we live is a strange name because the real world seams to be separate from virtual one which do not affects our closest real surroundings. We can observe clear divide on those two and I am almost positive that virtual is much more interesting for the most of us. Real world which is also city structure should be more alike virtual and should try to compete with it. City life must be more interactive, digital and make more interactions with habitants. It should be simple, intuitive and people should feel freedom which I think may be the biggest advantage of the internet. For example great idea which public libraries implemented in life last year was putting posters with books on the shelves all over the bust stops in the city center in Cracow. Each book have its own QR code which we could scan and after that download certain position on the phone or tablet. Those types of systems for the city should be simple and intuitive and as well introduced content should be a little higher in the intellectual scale than it is expected to be by the receiver. Putting bar little higher than normal is the only way to develop yourself and city authorities should remember this thinking about habitants.
City of the future featured in the Deus Ex 3 video game.
Digital stimulus and internet helps us to find content that we would like to receive and surround ourselves with. This is how should city work in my opinion. City structure should be much more diversified as it’s habitants are but public spaces shall be unified in terms of cultural, national and historical factors because in the any other case it will separate people from each other and will create division on citizens and foreigners or people from the city and from outside which does not make any sense these days. This way of thinking also do not favors feeling of being united or rise of the trust in the society. Public spaces should be a core, platform for action, initiatives of habitants. City should share space for work, having fun or for organizing its habitants and there should be simple rules which everybody could understand. Public spaces which attracts people have what we may call strong personality and in this case aesthetic or form is meaningless. Those places are hard to compare with any other and have its only one features. Diversity of personalities of those public spaces could be very interesting and probably possible to formulate and categorize like peronality types which distinguished Carl Jung, and after him pair of lady psychologists in MBTI2 tests. Those areas would probably have its opponents and followers but could nicely show features of certain places and peoples who would value those more than others according to their natural preferences. This scheme could get people to see how diversity is important in cooperation on any problems and how helpful different point of view on any case could be. And also how important is to develop ourselves in directions that are not natural for us. People could complement theirs and others life by helping them in this development. I think this division may make sense and I assume that if those places will be not so far away from each other people may choose space that they want to be in according to their mood. It’s quite the same like while listening to music, it’s often determined by our mood. Definitely in this division for places in order to personality should be places for introverts. Those areas would have probably great privacy, will be quiet and safe, basically great places to read a book or stop and wonder for a while. Those spaces will be I guess somehow locked and separate from typical noisy city structure. There’s also lack of public spaces for extraverts, it’s very important matter especially because of loneliness that is huge problem in the cities right now. We should think about spaces that gets involved with the people. Form of it should be interactive or work like a flash mobs or even open sport places for citizens.
Psychology thanks to inter alia Daniel Kahneman is a huge part of economics now and I think that it should have bigger role in architecture. Thanks to Christopher Alexander and new field of research called environmental psychology changes will be made in the architects approach and I think this is direction which can enrich our analysis of architecture with important and sometimes crucial information.
1 The Happy Planet Index (HPI) is anindex of human well-being and environmental impact that was introduced by the New Economics
Foundation (NEF) in July 2006.
2 The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.