Tomorrow’s Materials

New, smart, green. Three things we hear a lot when it comes to new products on the market whether in reference to cars, gadgets or houses, but at The Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen this past summer, it was not about new products but rather, new components. Exploring the materials that will build our future worlds, they presented the exhibit Material World featuring 100 innovative materials that make us wonder when our jetpacks are coming. While plastic and Teflon seemed like great ideas in the 20th century, today’s abundance of cheap and disposable materials and products have done more harm for the planet than good; there is a need for smarter and more creative solutions for tomorrow. The exhibit featured ingenious products that have been born from recycled and repurposed salvaged materials, as well as new creations from scratch that tackle function, form, strength and durability in innovative ways, in some cases, microscopic applications that can’t even be detected by the naked eye.

A Selection of 10 Smart Materials


Solid hardwood that can be bent in seemingly impossible ways -- as much as to a radius of 10 times its thickness. Available through Bendywood in beech, ash, cherry, maple,oak and walnut.


Semi-transparent solar cells by Isolar Glass generate energy via windows regardless of their angles, integrating sustainable technologies in a more subtle way than rooftop panels. Available in single pane glass as well as thermal, semi-transparent or opaque.


Corrugated cardboard made of strong first generation fibres, combined with double layer of fluting for reinforcement makes it impressively strong. A full pallet sized box can withstand 4 tons of weight, can be treated with a water-resistant coating, and is incredibly strong, durable, lightweight, cheap and recyclable.

Lumira Aerogel

Lightweight, translucent insulation material that weighs 75 g per liter, making it the lightest and best insulating solid in the world. It also absorbs light, dispenses sound, and is safe, non-hazardous, recyclable and environmentally friendly.


Shingles with a core composed of a sheet of strong glass felt coated with asphalt and titanium dioxide, making them durable, self-cleaning and air-purifying. The titanium dioxide acts as a catalyst when exposed to sunlight, converting NOx-particles into nitrate which can then be washed away by the rain and serves as nourishment for plants.

Spectra Rope

Wound from Spectra Fiber, a bright white polyethylene fibre that performs stronger than steel, Spectra Rope is a high-strength and cut-resistant rope for use in tensioning systems of almost any size and strength. Highly resistant to chemicals, water, and ultraviolet light, excellent flex fatigue and internal fibre friction characteristics, it’s fifteen times stronger than steel, and it floats.


High-strength structural bonding tape that is a proven alternative to screws, rivets, welds and other forms of mechanical fasteners. Designed for bonding glass to metal frames in glass curtain wall systems, 3M VHB structural tape consists of two-sided pressure sensitive adhesive acrylic foam tape. Unlike screws or rivets it achieves its bonding strength by spreading the stress load across the entire length of the joint.


Relief imaging on building materials through a computer-based process. Images are scanned and converted into 256 grayscale, then milled into the materials as a 2D relief by a CNC milling machine. When viewed from a distance, the image will be visible, but when seen up close it will appear simply as a texture.

Light Tape

Electroluminescent strips that may be bent around any surface for hundreds of meters at a fraction of the power cost of traditional light bulbs. Relying on electrical excitation of light emitting phosphors, similar to how plasma televisions are backlist, the tape positions the phosphor crystals between two electrically conductive strips that transmit light.

IQ Glass

Window-integrated heating that uses its inner pane double glazing to include a thin, invisible metal oxide coating, creating an electrical resistance that produces heat evenly when connected to medium voltage. The outer pane has an infrared-reflective coating that keeps the cold out and the warmth in, while the cavity is filled with non-toxic, insulating krypton. The system allows glazing-integrated heating while ensuring that windows remain free of condensation.

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