Smart Matters

European products showcase the best and latest in material technology.

When it comes to new and exciting materials, manufacturers in Europe are answering the call with experimental and eco-friendly solutions. Take Marjan van Aubel’s Energy, a collection of glassware and porcelain, which recently won the DOEN Materiaalprijs. The objects use solar cell technology to harvest light energy from their immediate surroundings; that energy is collected by an electronic circuit in a cupboard that then becomes a battery to charge a mobile phone or power a light. In London, the 2012 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion was built with a tried-and-true biodegradable material by architects Herzog & de Meuron and the artist Ai Weiwei. “Cork is a natural material with wonderful haptic qualities, with the versa-tility to be carved, cut, shaped, and formed,” the architects say. Here is a sampling of the choices that architects and designers now have, but they should consider each material’s environmental impact, its per-formance, and contact the manufacturer for a life-cycle assessment.

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