5 Game-Changing Design Innovations

Feb. 21, 2014
If there’s one immutable rule of the Digital Age, it’s that innovation never stops. Check out these five recent breakthroughs that promise to change everything from how we design buildings to how we power them.
The 3Doodler
Boston, USA
The 3Doodler may have started out as a toy, but if the $2.3 million dollars WobbleWorks raised on Kickstarter to produce it is any indicator, this invention has real market potential. The pen operates like a glue gun, releasing heated plastic filament that quickly cools to create intricate 3-D structures—and promises to blur the lines between designer sketchbook and modeling table. Plus, it looks pretty darn fun! Each strand is 10 inches long, which equates to approximately 100 inches of drawing plastic. Pre-order yours online at http://the3doodler.com/preorder-3doodler, and look for them in Brookstone stores by the end of Q1.
GraalBio's Second-Gen Biofuel
Alagoas, Brazil
As ethanol-based materials and manufacturing processes continue to grow in popularity (and for great environmental good), demand for cellulosic ethanol is outpacing production throughout South America. Now GraalBio, a biotechnology company of the Graal Group, has a solution that will boost sugarcane yields, reduce the amount of new farmland devoted to sugarcane crops, and cut fuel prices by 30 percent. That's because they've figured out how to produce ethanol using discarded stalks and leaves, rather than "first generation" sugarcane juice. "Our technology gets 45 percent more fuel from the same land," said GraalBio President Bernardo Gradin in an interview with Bloomberg News.
The Carbon Buster
Suffolk, England
Building blocks traditionally haven't been known for their green credentials, mainly due to their cement content, which is highly carbon-intensive to produce. The Carbon Buster from UK manufacturer Lignacite aims to change all that.

Developed in partnership with Carbon8 Aggregates, these unassuming blocks are made up of more than 50 percent recycled material, including old doors and windows. But the real innovation lies in their use of Carbon8 pellets that sequester carbon dioxide gases and other nasty industrial byproducts from waste-to-energy plants, resulting in a building block that contains more CO2 than is produced during its manufacturing process. "We firmly believe that constant innovation is key to creating a brighter and more sustainable future for everyone," said Lignacite Chairman Giles de Lotbiniere.

Light-Transmitting Concrete
Stolberg, Germany
Innovators and inventors have been toying with the idea of light-transmitting concrete for decades, but German manufacturer LUCEM is the first to put it within the reach of the masses. These sleek panels are made by embedding tiny strands of optical fiber within the concrete that allow both natural and artifical light to filter through; remove the light source (or wait for the sun to go down) and the panels go back to looking like a traditional stone surface. Suited for use both indoors and outdoors, adventurous architects and designers are just starting to explore the possibilities of LUCEM panels, from interior claddings that change with the daylight to eye-popping building facades equipped with color-changing LEDs (shown at RWTH Aachen University in Germany).
Infinity Tower
Seoul, South Korea
With construction set to begin this year, the Infinity Tower in South Korea promises to be one of the most breathtaking feats of modern architecture. Instead of smoke and mirrors, GDS Architects plan to use LEDs and HD cameras to turn 450 meters of glass and steel into an architectural Houdini. At certain vantage points on the ground, the building will look completely invisible, a projection of the sky beyond it. (But don't worry—birds and planes will be able to spot the building from above.) The tower will house an entertainment complex, including the world's third highest observation deck.

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