These 11 new materials and technologies offer a glimpse into where innovation is taking us, both in terms of sustainability and simply as cool ideas. Each one represents a step forward in an existing idea, but gives us an idea of where materials in interiors could go next. From simple reductions in environmental impact or material mass, to electronic innovations that will change how information can be delivered, these new developments offer a view of a future and some great ideas of what is possible for our built spaces.
Metal Architectural Surfaces
Quin Media Arts and Sciences Inc. (Q-MAAS)
• Low-cost, lightweight sheet metal that is die-cut and processed using CNC machining to create the representation of textures, patterns and images with a unique 3D appearance.
• Can be post-processed with spray-painting and there are no scale restrictions because the sheet metal can be processed in pieces and then assembled later to create a large-scale image or design.
• Applications include signage, textiles, sculpture, and architectural elements.
Graphic surfaces without the standard use of paints offer a more subtle and textural way of seeing a surface. This process, originally created for molded parts, now can be used for aluminum panels that can be used for interior and exterior surfaces as well as lighting.
• Decorative panels that are CNC routed resulting in a variety of color contoured designs on pigmented MDF.
• Custom colors and surface imagery are available with a minimum order of 200 running meters (218 yds).
• The product is also offered as completely assembled wall paneling and as partition wall panels.
• Applications are for high-end interior design and furniture construction.
Continuing the topographical surface trend, this process has been around for some time, but the level of detail and graphic ingenuity has taken the CNC routed panel to another level.
CFS – Carbon Fiber Stone
TechnoCarbon Technologies GbR
• This composite material is made of stone and is produced using a patented method, in which the (natural) stone is on one side or completely encased in carbon.
• The resulting composite material exhibits an extremely high tensile and compressive strength and does not break under impact.
• The combination of the properties of stone – extreme high compressive strength and inexpensive – and the properties of carbon fiber – very high tensile strength – makes this material suitable for numerous applications.
• Applications are furniture design, interior design and architecture, automotive and aircraft engineering.
Thinner lighter stone cladding has used MDF, honeycomb, metal foam, and other lightweight substrates to enable easy installation. This version takes it a step further by using the stiffness and performance of carbon fiber to create a new type of clad stone, enabling it to be used in applications for interiors never before imagined.
UltraCanvas Backlite U280
Ultraflex Systems, Inc.
• Coated, woven polyester, back-lit textile that contains 20% recycled content.
• A proprietary technology is implemented into the water-based coating to create “exaggerated” colors, producing high quality images when back-lit.
• Contains an antistatic coating and less than 1% shrinkage when printed and applied.
• Has good tear-resistance, is heat sealable, has passed NFPA701 for flame-resistance and is B1 fire rated according to the DIN 4102 testing procedure.
• Is compatible with UV, dye-sublimation, and screen-printers.
• Can be used for indoor or outdoor signage, displays, lightboxes, and tradeshows.
Innovative use of printing and signage material enables enhancements in this backlit signage. Skin tones, realism are heightened to a level not seen before in this type of printed surface.
• These textiles for flooring are integrated with RFID-tags for navigation and logistic applications and consist of 33% polyester (PET), 66% nylon (PA), aluminum as well as a silicon chip.
• RFID-tags serve as invisible landmarks to support the navigation of robotic vehicles or the localization of movable objects as long as they are equipped with a scanner and wireless data communication.
• The impact sound insulation, based on polyester non-woven, is suitable to be used under laminates and carpeting and the fiber glass reinforcement material is suitable to be used under any type of flooring and can also be embedded in poured flooring like resin or tile screed.
• The impact sound insulation is EN ISO 9239-1:2002 certified and is suited for castor chairs (EN 985:2001) under tufting flooring.
• Applications are for the navigation of robots, the logistics and locating of goods and products, as guidance system in e.g. stores as well as collecting of information of the course of movement of customers with shopping carts.
With the trend towards ‘always on’ positioning systems, and the desire to let your friends know exactly where you are via GPS apps, the use of these RFID tags to follow shoppers around a store is a clear step towards the total tracking of our consumer movements.
• Three-dimensional lightweight honeycomb core material, whose structure is derived from joined soap bubbles.
• Due to this construction, any wall thickness is possible. Depending on requirements, the material can be manufactured from polymers, ceramics, metal or renewable raw materials, and also can be laminated with different face layers.
• In comparison to existing lightweight elements and core materials, tensile, compressive, bending, shearing and torsion forces are optimally absorbed by the grid and diverted into the part.
• Applications are for lightweight construction panels and composite panels, acoustic panels, furniture and packaging industries.
The biomimetic thinking that led to this innovation is of merit (the structure is that of soap bubbles), but what is more interesting is the ability to create ceramic, meta,l and composite panels of this structure for large scale screens, surfaces. and furniture.
Concrete Cloth™ (CC)
Concrete Canvas Ltd. (UK)
• Cement impregnated flexible fabric that hardens upon addition of water to form a thin, durable, waterproof and fireproof concrete layer.
• This “concrete cloth” is composed of a concrete blend and synthetic fibers with a clear PVC backing that ensures the material is waterproof. Hydrophilic fibers on the opposite surface aid hydration by drawing water into the cement.
• When water is added the material remains flexible for two hours and then sets rapidly.
• When unset the material is flexible and can be easily cut to shape, nailed, or stapled through and fixed into complex curvatures using basic fixings.
• It is currently being used by designers, architects, sculptors and artists in a range of projects including furniture design, complex curved roofing, public sculpture, and digital printing design.
Concrete has had somewhat of a renaissance over the last few years, and this sculptural concrete ‘fabric’ is a clear demonstration. Just add water and the formable sheet becomes rigid in two hours, enough time to create just about any shape. It’s water-, impact- and corrosion-proof, so also has many uses other than purely as a “wow” factor.
PolymerPark materials GmbH
• A versatile, integrally foamed, thermoplastic, lightweight element with a very good ratio between weight, mechanics, and costs.
• They are durable, lightweight, chemically resistant, abrasion-proof, recyclable, low maintenance, and offer high weatherability.
• The material complies with a class B2 fire rating and can be produced in other fire ratings using additives.
• It can be sawed, milled, nailed, screwed, riveted, and welded, and is offered in standard colors white, various gray shades, and black.
As an alternative to materials such as plywood, MDF, and other structural construction panels, this durable, rigid, lightweight panel offers a colored alternative that withstands time and whatever else nature and humans can throw at it. The material is also completely recyclable and could end up as clothing, some food storage bowls, or even another polymer panel at the end of its life.
ECOR - Noble Environmental Technologies Corporation
• These pressure-molded honeycomb panels are produced utilizing low energy processing techniques.
• It is composed of agro-fiber (including plant fibers and Bovine Processed Fiber™ - (BPF), and post-consumer waste (Old Corrugated Cardboard-OCC, Old Newspaper-ONP, etc.).
• A proprietary “wet process” technique allows for hard-wearing adhesion of fibers without the use of chemical additives.
• This creates a high strength composite structure that is recyclable and can be laminated and tinted with non-toxic pigments.
• Applications include furniture, POP displays, as a sandwich core for added structure, ceiling panels, and interior wall panels.
The desire for low environmental impact alternatives to many construction materials is driving the admirable trend of using waste agricultural materials. These low weight panels are no exception, using ‘bovine processed fiber’ (yes that is what you think it is) as a strengthener for construction honeycomb and formable sheets.
Transparent LED signboard
• Transparent flexible polymer sheet that incorporates working LED lights.
• The polymer film is coated with a transparent, thin layer of carbon nanotubes in a specific configuration to act at ‘wires’ to connect the LED lights.
• This type of conductive film is an alternative to ITO coatings used in other transparent LED films.
• It is offered as a more efficient and lower cost process for producing this type of film.
• The design of the film and the patterning of the LED array may be specified by the client.
• The films can currently be implemented as signage and POP displays.
Transparency continues to be an inspirational property. This innovation uses a thin transparent layer of carbon nanotubes to impart electrical conductivity to polymers and can give unique LED signage opportunities.
SARATECH® Permasorb Wallpaper
• Wall covering that absorbs chemicals from walls and are able to remove contaminants from within the wall structure, including PCB, PCP, pesticides and radon that were released largely by construction, and auxiliary materials used primarily in the 1960s and 1970s.
• This breathable, glass fiber/polyester nonwoven paper-like covering contains adsorbents that have an extremely high surface area which translates into high adsorptive capacity.
• The concentration gradient between the contaminant laden wall and the adsorbed layer automatically initiates the diffusion process.
• The process is claimed to be continuous with no loss in performance over time.
• Typically used for older constructed industrial buildings where chemicals may have leached into the walls.
As well as offering low toxicity materials for new installations, there are some newer innovations that can clean up the smells and VOCs of earlier works. This toxin absorbing wallpaper draws nasty chemicals out of the walls and encapsulates them so that they don’t leach out into the interior air. Good for anyone in a building created before the 1980s.
As vice president, library & materials research, Dr. Andrew H. Dent plays a key role in the expansion of Material ConneXion’s technical knowledge base. His research directs the implementation of consulting projects and the selection of new materials to Material ConneXion’s Materials Library, which currently has over 5,000 materials. Dr. Dent is a frequent speaker on sustainable material strategies and has contributed to many publications, most recently co-authoring Ultra Materials: How Materials Innovation is Changing the World. He received his Ph.D. in materials science from the University of Cambridge in England.