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The Week in Design: Nespresso Coffee Batteries and Graceful Wind Power

selection of this week's designs
The Web is teeming with the unrealized ideas of both students and established designers who set out to produce astonishing renderings and prototypes for unusual products. Unfortunately, due to the lack of time, money, or technology, many of those products never move from the planning stages to the mass market. But that doesn't mean we can't salivate over their creations, nevertheless.

Can you take luxury food waste and transform it into a power source? Can you rethink the way we look at images, or how we interact with something as simple as a volume control? The designs we saw this week did exactly that, exploring new ways to recycle, to experience media and to generate electricity. Good design, after all, is pioneering -- not just more of the same. Check out our favorite designs of the week after the break.

Windstalks by Atelier DNA

Windstalks by Atelier DNA
New York-based design firm Atelier DNA wasn't content with commonplace wind turbines (which, sadly, aren't as commonplace as they should be), because they're not the prettiest things in the world, and they can produce a significant amount of low-frequency vibration, which may have undue health effects. Atelier DNA's alternative is a concept called Windstalks, a series of 1,203 carbon fiber-reinforced resin poles, each of which is attached to a piezoelectric disc. The 180-foot poles generate current as they sway in the wind, while a torque generator in the base creates additional kinetic energy as fluid forced through each pole. An LED lamp sits atop each pole, varying its light output according to the amount of energy the poles are generating. Atelier DNA suggests that, while a single wind turbine's output would trump a single Windstalk, the poles could be clumped more densely together, and collectively match the electrical generation of a wind farm.

Nespresso Battery by Mischer'Traxler

Nespresso Battery by Mischer'Traxler
Our biggest gripe when we reviewed the Nespresso CitiZ espresso machine was that the coffee pods are proprietary to Nespresso, and leave a significant bruise on the environment with their packaging. Since many people feel this way, the Vienna-based design duo Mischer'Traxler was brought on board by Nespresso Austria to showcase a recycling solution for the refuse at Vienna Design Week. Mischer'Traxler used 700 espresso pods to make 17 batteries -- by combining crushed aluminum capsules (the anodes), coffee grounds, salt water and a chunk of copper (the cathode) -- to each give life to a small clock. The entire installation could juice a single small radio, which is rather impractical. But better than heading to the landfill, right?

CMYK Electro-Eraser by Mohsen Saleh

CMYK Electro-Eraser
Far from the prettiest concept we've ever laid eyes on, Mohsen Saleh's electromagnetic paper recycling system got our attention with its intriguing premise. Shortlisted for the Designboom-sponsored IIDA Awards 2010 Competition, Mohsen Saleh's CMYK Electro-Eraser sprang from the research of ink and pigment manufacturers trying to make their products resistant to sunlight. The Electro-Eraser goes in the opposite direction, proposing a device that can emit electromagnetic radiation to break the bonds of CMYK inks on paper, producing clean, white sheets from a pile of old pages. Using a process akin to photochromism (the transformation that allows your swank eyewear to go from glasses to sunglasses and back again), Saleh's machine would act on only the electromagnetic spectra specific to black, magenta, yellow and cyan printed inks -- eliminating the color permanently. But is the energy output required to run the machine less than modern recycling processes for the same amount of paper? And could it be done on a large scale?

An Imaginary Museum #1 by Jon Stamm

Imaginary Museum #1
Designer Jon Stamm writes on his site, "Today, networked technology allows us to access information anywhere and at any time, but a meaningful exhibition-format for this information is far from commonplace." His Imaginary Museum #1 is a hacked View-Master that allows users to access digital image archives in an analog way, transforming information displayed on a computer screen into something they can hold up to their eyes. The View-Master, one of our favorite childhood toys, is fitted with micro-LCD screens which display the content of digital disks. Unlike the original View-Masters, the digital disks (which look like the old wheels) could display 2-D, 3-D and moving images, and probably hold more than seven images at a time. iPads are all well and good, but a next-gen View-Master? Sign us up.

Vol. by Carson Leong

Vol. by Carson Leong
Here's Carson Leong's Vol., a cylindrical speaker with a volume slide control. Looking not unlike an IKEA lamp, Vol. gets louder as you slide the ribbed sleeve down, doing away with the purely digital controls du jour. Now, the inimitable FastCoDesign says this speaker is haptic -- but is it? The sleeve attaches to a small slot at the top of the speaker, which contains an analog volume slide. But, as you slide the sleeve down, does it actually give you a sense of tactile feedback? We debated in the office and decided that, sure, maybe your palm grazes or even rests on the top of the sleeve's ribs as they expand and contract -- but, simply from looking at the photos, we'd assume that the best way to slide the sleeve is from the top, not the middle. So, we don't want to implicitly apply such a broad definition to haptics, as Vol.'s feedback is largely visual, not tactile. The greater concern, however, is how it sounds. It reminds us of those YUBZ portable speakers, which we found to be like a vacation to Buzzing Static Island.

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