Monday, 6 February 2012

Carbon Nanotube, Metamaterials and Architecture

Planning disputes in local government and cities are often concluded using access to light as the fundamental argument. As well as light, views are important to the local residences of an area and often developers are resented for their obstruction. The ever increasing densities of cities and the battle for light may be overcome through cladding that incorporates carbon nanotube technology and metamaterials to refract light around a building and possibly creating partially invisible structures to retain views. This idea is somewhat science fiction at the moment but with recent developments it is looking increasingly likely that invisibility is possible. Below are some images of density problems that are already starting to impact on light and living quality in cities.




The constant battle for views can be seen in some recent building forms such as the 8 house design by Bjarke Ingels. This building maximises views to the water but with the use of metamaterials the possibility to create any shape desired through light refraction is getting closer. 


The most successful method I have come across to make materials invisible is the mirage effect discovered at University of Texas, Dallas. This works through using heat gradients and heating up nanotubes to create a artificial mirage which could possibly be used to hide entire 3D objects. This video below is a small scale demonstration of the technology in action. 




The problem with the mirage effect is it would require large amounts of consistent energy to render a object invisible but Metamaterials can manipulate light purely with their own properties. The mirage effect has been successful already but Metamaterials are not quite to that level quite yet. According to Ortwin Hess, a physicist who recently took up the Leverhulme Chair in Metamaterials at Imperial College London, called recent development  "A huge step forward in many ways"

This research is ongoing and it is only a matter of time before the technology to incorporate semi invisible sections into architecture will become available. 

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