Green Spotlight: A Battery Made from Wood

After a brief break from blogging, we’re back, and we’re going to start the ball rolling with some news fro the green technology front. Researchers out of the Energy Research Center at the University of Maryland have created an environmentally friendly battery made of wood.The image that may spring to mind may be something akin to an old-school lemon battery with a penny and a nail jammed into a log, but the “wood” employed here is actually a nano-scale cellulose fiber being used to ease the movement of ions (and thus electric charge).

This technology offers a few unique advantages over current batteries. Perhaps the most obvious that the ions employed here are Sodium ions, while the battery in your phone employs more expensive Lithium. The Sodium isn’t as energy dense as Lithium, so the wood batteries won’t make their way into your pocket anytime soon, but it makes stringing together huge farms of the nano-batteries for large scale storage more cost effective. This allows for more efficient storage of solar or wind energy to use on windless nights.

So these new batteries use Sodium, what’s that got to do with wood? Well Sodium batteries use Tin as their anode (the thing that coaxes the Sodium into giving up electrons to flow around circuits), and Tin has a tendency to lose its grip on the battery after just a few charge cycles. But cellulose fibers are used plant matter for transporting electrolytes around the organism, meaning that clinging to the Tin ions while allowing the Sodium to flow is close to its original, biological purpose.

During the course of their research, the team also discovered that the cellulose had a mechanism to aid it in being used for multiple charge cycles. As the battery was charged and discharged the fibers would wrinkle and relax, allowing for far more cycles than other nano-batteries.

While the technology is still a prototype with a long ways to go before becoming commercially viable, it is easy to see the potential is has to change the face of green technology.


NeoCon, the Furniture Super Bowl

This week brings us one of the most exciting weeks in design engineering, NeoCon NeoCon is a showcase and exhibition of all of the latest office furniture break throughs. Running Monday through Thursday of this week (6/10-6/13), NeoCon features many Holland area businesses known for their innovation in the field of office furniture design. 

Haworth has designed a 2013 NeoCon showroom that highlights innovation and collaborative thinking. One of their key pieces is the the Hoop. Hoop is a molded, standing-height table that is approachable from all sides and encourages on the spot collaboration and short conversations with room for between two and four people. Hoop is light weight (about 60 lbs.) making it perfect for any location inside or out. Another key piece is for Haworth is the introduction of the incredibly innovative Bluescape collaborative touch screen wall. This product is sure to change the face of meeting space and office collaboration across the globe. Haworth has previously won several awards for their innovation in office furniture design and hopes to bring home more recognition to West Michigan this year.

Herman Miller, another serial award winner and local giant has also produced a showcase that will blow away any who view it. Key to their collection is the Mirra 2 work chair. The Mirra 2 is an update from Herman Miller’s original best-selling design. The original design of the Mirra sold over 1.5 million units during the past ten years. So, why change what isn’t broken? Well this new Mirra 2 is a totally re-imagined idea; it is leaner, lighter and more responsive with a patented Butterfly Back design. Mirra 2 features easy-to-use controls that allow for adjustments while seated. Herman Miller’s NeoCon collection also features a fiber glass model of the Eames molded plastic chair, and a debut of the modern Wireframe Sofa Group.

Local innovator Mitch Bakker of IDa Design (Zeeland, MI) has offered an upscale vision for private offices. Credentials makes a bold statement through modern wood construction. This sleek design seeps status, confidence and luxury without the pretension of a stuffy old style wood work. IDa also offers an integrated, reconfigurable system of work spaces for Allsteel. IDa hopes to add to it’s two prestigious design honors earned at NeoCon 2012.

Other offerings come from Trendway and Sparkeology, also local West Michigan firms. Sparkeology offers Lily, an ergonomic table that can hold a laptop, papers, pen, drink, and phone, but can still move to accommodate individual and group work. Sparkeology also plans to unveil Mark, a portable table top surface that can be written on and hung as a white board. Trendway’s NeoCon offerings begin with Feek North America. Bold, colorful, playful lines of unique furniture from polyurethane foam which is coated by a special process to produce durable comfortable skin. All new products from this line are being manufactured right here in Holland.

NeoCon gives West Michigan designers and innovators a chance to be showcased on the biggest stage there is for office furniture showcase; the Super Bowl for the office chair and table. It is clear that West Michigan is a leader in this field and after judging today I’m sure that we will take away another year of Furniture Super Bowl rings.

Printing Off a New World

Three dimensional printing technology is changing the face of our world with each new print out. In our industry, we use 3-D printing technology to print out a 3-D model of the part of a product that we have been designed to show our clients exactly how the part will look and fit with the rest of the product. We’re not the only one’s utilizing this technology though, the medical field, construction, and to just make some really cool stuff.

The medical field is where the real world changing innovation has began showing up in regards to 3-D printing. According to an article from, The Blaze, 3-D printing technology has been utilized to save the life of an Ohio infant. Kaiba was born with a condition that resulted in the frequent collapse of his windpipe leaving him frequently unable to breath and requiring to be resuscitated. Doctors at the University of Michigan designed a splint that would allow Kaiba’s safe breathing while his bronchus grew stronger. The UofM doctors were able to design this splint using a 3-D printed model of Kaiba’s bronchus and technology that would allow the dissolving of the splint in the exact amount of time the bronchus needed to strengthen. This is just one of many medical uses for three dimensional printing, others include the creation of custom prosthesis, and biomaterial that reduces rejection rates.

Construction is another field where three dimensional printing can shine. Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis from the University of Southern California has created a giant 3-D  printer that may change the face of construction. With this printer, buildings would go up significantly quicker and with much less labor cost. The Contour Crafting, Khoshnevis’ giant 3-D printer, can produce a custom home in just 20 hours. This technology can add anything from custom paint to electrical wiring. This technology is particularly important for homes destroyed through natural disasters such as the recent devastation in Moore, OK.

Now, innovation is all fine and good, but what about the fun stuff? Like printing off a snack, or a new dress? Technology is not horribly far off. A law student, Cody Wilson was filmed for BBC firing the first 3-D printable gun. Basically, at this point if you can swing the price of a still rather expensive three dimensional printer, and you have the brain to see it’s possibilities, you can print almost anything imaginable.

High on Hybrids!

Sticking with our green theme from last week, we’ve got green vehicles on the mind. In today’s automotive climate, your choices for environmentally friendly transport are vast and to be frank, a little intimidating. But what is all the hullabaloo about? Is a Chevy Volt the best choice? A Honda Civic Hybrid? Or a hyper efficient Toyota Yaris? Don’t fret, we’ll break it down for you in the most scientific way possible, personal experience!

Come on we’ll rock down to Electric Avenue…electric cars are the new hit single in the automotive scene, but is no emission vehicles the way to go? Now, the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf are cool little cars that we can confirm, they look like something Luke Skywalker would be taking out on the town when he finally gets his license to drive. But as cool as these little zip cars can be, the range falls a little flat. Battery powered with a fuel efficient back up engine, we have reports that a fully charged Chevy Volt can make it from the heart of the City of Holland to Grand Haven, Michigan (about 30 minutes up US 31) and then half way back before the back up engine kicks in. Now if you’re zipping around town running errands, emission free is the way to be, but for longer distances, the Volt just doesn’t cut it. (Priced just under $40,000).

How ’bout them hybrids? Does anyone even know for sure what a hybrid car is actually defined as? We all point fingers at the speed  racing Prius when we think hybrid, but what does it have under the hood? Hybrids combine an internal combustion engine and an battery powered source to propel them forward into an environmentally friendly future. Last week, yours truly took a trip to East Grand Rapids in a Honda Civic Hybrid, and to be honest, I felt like I was in a sophisticated golf cart. It was slow and funny sounding with none of the cool features it’s electric car cousins have (like looking like a space ship). The fuel efficiency is epic (alleged by the driver to average about 45 mph), but I just wasn’t sold on the Civic Hybrid. (Pricing on a new Honda Civic Hybrid, about $25,000.)

Now what about our friend the Yaris? I may be partial, but bang for your buck, hyper fuel efficient Yaris is the way to go. Traveling across Michigan, through Canada and across upstate New York to the beautiful state of Maine is a bit of a trek at about 1,500 miles. In a Yaris, that fifteen hundred mile excursion is only $120 in gas. (Pricing on a new Toyota Yaris, $15,000)

Pass your own judgements, but I’m loving on the Yaris.

Going Green!

With the second decade of this millennium came the trend of going green! Now, unlike the grunge era of the 1990’s and the leisure suits of the 1970’s, going green is a trend that we’re unlikely to regret in fifteen years. EVOLVE by Design’s home, Holland, Michigan, is a small town leader in the sphere of the environmentally friendly with many LEED certified buildings from City Flats Hotel to our very own office in Scrapyard Lofts and a strong movement from the community to make a difference with today being the final work day of the City of Holland’s Green Commute Week!

Over the years, EVOLVE has been involved with the “green movement” through various projects. In the last few years, EVOLVE by Design has worked closely with Haworth Corporation, who also call green themed Holland their home, on several design engineering projects including chairs whose unique and innovative design have earned them high honors and awards at NeoCon.

Haworth Corporations Headquarters is a prime example of going green. It is home to an extensive green roof. What is a green roof? A green, or living roof is a roof that is partially or completely covered with growing medium and vegetation planted over a waterproof membrane. These living roofs have all kinds of environmentally friendly benefits that include, better insulation, natural filtering of rainwater, and the filtering of pollutants and carbon dioxide out of air. These carefully designed green roofs also just look really cool. Green roofing is a growing trend amongst corporations and really anyone who can fund and maintain them! It’s a unique piece of engineering that won’t go out of style!

Why we’re blogging!

Evolve by Design is a small studio of design engineers who work to offer a variety of design engineering services to clients utilizing a clients existing supplier and professional networks. Our small in house team consists of a group capable of offering many skills from engineering design (CATIA V5, Rhino, Solidworks, Pro Engineer Wildfire and Alias) to project management.

In the internet age, it’s imperative for small businesses such as EVOLVE to grow a strong social media platform for the new-age internet service seekers to find us and all the cool things we do here! So take a minute and follow bookmark our blog, follow our twitter (@Evolve_Holland) and like our Facebook page!

Thank you for the continued support of the design engineer industry for without them small studio design wouldn’t have the strength it does in today’s economy.ImageImage