Category Archives: materials

Hidden Engineering Connections in Lux Items

So what happens when you put some iconic luxury brands into a 3D medical imaging scanner? Well, you get some amazing, semi-transparent images that reveal some interesting engineering connections!

This x-ray image of the classic Christian Louboutin stiletto reveals the metal structure at the heart of the interior design. Interestingly, the metal used in quality high heels was originally patented for the aircraft industry after the second world war.

Below is the inside of a $9000 Hermès saddle. This innovative design was patented by Hermès in 2010 and in the below x-ray “you’ll learn that the saddle’s structure is formed from light carbon fiber, and its padding uses the same memory foam technology as high-end beds, which give the saddle the effect of being instantly “broken.””

These are just two of the images found in this 13 piece exhibition created by  LuxInside art collective.

Colour Changing Chalice

Not only a tongue twister, this colour changing chalice left scientists in knots as they struggled for decades to understand how it worked. Known as the Lycurgus Cup, it is both the only  figural example of a type of vessel known as a ‘cage-cup’ and the only complete Roman glass object made from dichroic glass.
Lycurgus Cup is made of dichroic glass and appears jade green when lit from the front. © Trustees of the British Museum

Lycurgus Cup (4th century AD) is made of dichroic glass and appears jade green when lit from the front. © Trustees of the British Museum

What is so fascinating about this chalice is that is changes colour depending if light is shone from the front or back. This colourful secret intrigued scientists and it wasn’t  until 1990 they attributed this colour change to nanotechnology.
The Roman artisans “impregnated the glass with particles of silver and gold, ground down until they were as small as 50 nanometers in diameter, less than one-thousandth the size of a grain of table salt.”  When light hits the metal nanoparticles, the electrons in the metal are excited in ways that alter the colour depending on the observer’s position.
Lycurgus Cup is made of dichroic glass and appears blood red when lit from the back. © Trustees of the British Museum

Lycurgus Cup is made of dichroic glass and appears blood red when lit from the back. © Trustees of the British Museum

I stumbled upon this beautiful chalice in a recent Smithsonian Magazine article as it seems scientists are tamping into this 1,600-year-old “technology” to create “super­sensitive new technology that might help diagnose human disease or pinpoint biohazards at security checkpoints”.
If you’re like me and want to see the real thing you need to get yourself down to the British Museum.

Dresses Grown Magnetically

Love, love , love these dresses which were created in a collaboration between Dutch designers Iris van Herpen and Jólan van der Wiel! What’s so special about these dresses (and why I love them) is because they were “grown” by magnets.

A model wearing one of the magnetic dresses along with a pair of 3D printed shoes. Image from (http://www.irisvanherpen.com/haute-couture#wilderness-embodied-haute-couture)

A model wearing one of the magnetic dresses along with a pair of 3D printed shoes. Image from http://www.irisvanherpen.com

The dresses are part of Iris van Herpen’s Wilderness Embodied Haute Couture collection and were shown as part of the Autumn Winter 2013 fashion show in Paris earlier this month.

“Iris van Herpen focuses on the forces of nature, with a back and forth between innovation and craftsmanship. Beyond simple visual inspiration, this wonder of the natural world forms the basis of wild experimentation. With the help of artists, scientists and architects, Iris van Herpen explores the intricacies of these forces trough the medium of fashion, and the sensitive poetics that have long characterized her aesthetic vocabulary.Trough her collaboration with artist Jolan van der Wiel, who has spent several years pondering the possibilities of magnetism, they have created dresses whose very forms are generated by the phenomenon of attraction and repulsion.”

Close up of magnetic dress and the protrusions created by the magnetic force.

Close up of magnetic dress and the protrusions created by the magnetic force.

“To do this they manipulated a material made from iron fillings mixed into resin.
This composite material was added to fabric in small sections then pulled by magnets, creating a spiky texture and unique patterns.” You can read more here.

You may be surprised to learn that iron fillings suspended in a carrier fluid are used in car brakes, bridges and other bits of engineering (great little connection between fashion and engineering)! A few years ago I worked on a show about smart materials and magnetorheological fluids featured in it –  Jolan van der Wiel’s material sounds very much like this smart material. You can see the show here.