Friday, February 27, 2009

FAV Material Observations:

Entering the Film and Video department, I found a composite material immediately in the interior window of the administrative offices. These window panes are of a composite material physically assembled of glass imbedded with metal wire. The two materials combine to heighten the thermal capabilities of glass. Although an outmoded version of fire-resistant glass, this material is of interest now because this is a relatively sustainable substance; the two primary materials can be separated and recycled easily. In addition to the environmental advantages and thermal property changes, visually this combination has led to a slightly obscured glass. In this case, it’s unclear whether the minimal barrier created by the wire is beneficial or detrimental.

The next material which captured my attention was this curious wall panel in one of the classrooms. The purpose and ingredients of this panel are unclear to me, but the various layers peeling away at the edges reveal a composite nature. Here the compound structure seems to fail as much of the outer layer is flaking away. The crumbling nature of this material may cause negative health effects as the dust is let loose in the air. Perhaps this degradation is a result of age, friction or a chemical reaction. Maybe functionally this panel is intended to enhance the acoustics in this room which is a guess made based on the video viewing equipment perched in the rear.

Looking down I began to explore another composite material at my feet. The terrazzo flooring in the hallways is made of marble chips imbedded in a resin. This combination is an inexpensive, visually similar alternative to solid marble. Terrazzo is very stable chemically and mechanically and exhibits some sustainable attributes. While it could recycle bits of leftover marble, the new material cannot be recycled or separated into its components at the end of its life.

Following that hallway to the end, I found another composite material to examine. A series of woven window shades made of vinyl and fiberglass fibers form light filtering protection from the sun’s glare and heat. Environmentally, the ingredients used in this material are harmful. In addition, the tightly woven nature of the fibers prevents reuse of the separate components in the future.

The final material of interest is this textile hanging on the wall of the video-editing computer lab. While not a conventional composite material, this project exhibits key characteristics and lends them visible at a large scale. This handmade mesh is composed of several ordered components (paper, feathers, yarn and felt) all woven together somewhat randomly, similar to a polycrystalline structure and Van der Waals bonding. I am unaware of any performance criteria for the creation of this material besides holding itself together as the application seems purely decorative.

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