Dr. Rashid Abu Al-Rub, an associate professor of mechanical and materials engineering at the Masdar Institute, demonstrates the use of nanoengineered materials to make airplane armrests lighter.
Tahra Al Hammadi, Masdar Institute News Dr. Rashid Abu Al-Rub, an associate professor of mechanical and materials engineering at the Masdar Institute, demonstrates the use of nanoengineered materials to make airplane armrests lighter.

The construction industry is continually looking for new ways to make everyday building materials perform better. Researchers at the Masdar Institute in the United Arab Emirates have taken a major step forward in designing and 3D printing high-performance materials that are customized for specific applications. The team takes common materials like plastic, metal, and ceramics and alters their internal geometries to change their mechanical, thermal, and electrical behavior—for example, rendering a metal durable and light, with an airy rather than dense composition, and ductile qualities—and uses the updated materials to 3D print the resulting complex parts and components whose structures may have variations down to the nanometer scale. The work is similar to that of Julia Greer, a materials science and mechanics professor at the California Institute of Technology, who uses a process called two-photon lithography to build precise polymer nanotrusses coated in materials such as metal or ceramic that are hollowed out and stacked in fractals and that derive their strength from their form. In both cases, the researchers are unlikely to use their techniques to produce large-scale products but will rather create components, coatings, and more that work to bring nanomaterials’ signature mix of high strength, durability, and lightness to the core of building products and systems, in addition to its other applications in industries including aerospace, automobile, medical, and more. [Masdar Institute + ARCHITECT]

ICYMI: What architecture firms should consider before bringing 3D-printing services in-house. [ARCHITECT]

These fluorescent polymer gels change color when disrupted by heat or shaking, with potential applications including coatings that can determine structural failure points and temperature changes. [Phys.org]

How the Hills, a 172-acre park opening later this month on New York City’s Governor’s Island, plans to shield the city from the storms and rising sea levels fueled by climate change. [Wired]

A recent summit at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, showcased the results of the BioDesign Challenge, a competition for university students to work with professional designers and scientists to use biotechnology to solve a social problem. [Fast Company’s Co.Design]

The U.K.’s 2015 Milan Expo Pavilion, Hive—whose immersive, honeycomb structure comments on the relationship between humans and bees—has taken up residence at Kew Gardens, in London, and will be open through November 2017. [Archinect]

The winners of the 2016 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge explored how designs and systems inspired by the natural world can improve food and agriculture issues, including waste, food distribution, energy use, and more. The winning teams include high school and university students. [Gizmag]