The Swiss Innovation Forum 2016 in Basel allows young start-ups to present their newest ideas and creations at the Future Expo. This year, some environmentally friendly innovators caught our attention. Winners of the Swiss Technology Award in the “Inventors” category was Mesh Mould, a project by researchers at the ETH Zürich. They create cost-effective and sustainable reinforced concrete structures of any shape without the need for costly formworks. Smixin, a spin-off of the Swiss innovation factory Creaholic, is a smart handwashing system that reduces the use of both water and soap whilst keeping hygiene at an optimum. Velohub increases cyclist safety on the road with their Blinkers invention, providing an incentive for car drivers to hop onto their bikes more often. And ÜserHuus has designed a rotation system for integrating photovoltaic cells into facades.
The Mesh Mould project explores the folding of two separate yet essential concrete construction components – reinforcement and formwork – into a unified robotic fabrication process. The idea is a digitally-controlled extrusion process of bespoke “leaking formwork” elements for non-standard concrete structures that are environmentally sound and structurally lean, and that can be efficiently fabricated directly on the construction site. During the first research phase, a spatial robotic extrusion process was developed, allowing to examine the interdependencies of mesh typology and rheological behaviour of concrete. The on-going second research phase focuses on the translation of the structurally weak polymer-based extrusion process into a fully load-bearing steel-construction system.
Smixin technology is a platform technology that enables optimal mixing of liquid concentrate, water and air. 90% less water and 60% less soap is used than during conventional handwashing. The core of the system is a smart mixing unit, which integrates 3 components: the accurate measuring of the amount of soap concentrate; the mixing of soap, water and air; and dispensing a precise volume of the mixed product. The optimal soap-foam is instantly dispersed across the skin combining wetting and soaping into one step. The programmable pause enables a defined scrubbing time, followed by a precise mix of air and water that guarantees efficient rinsing. Conventional handwashing consumes on average more than 1.3 liters per handwashing cycle. Smixin systems use 90% less, just half a glass or 1 deciliter for a high quality handwash. Since the whole cycle is controlled electronically, it assures that no water is wasted. Furthermore, there is no contact with potentially contaminated surfaces, from first activation to drying, as the system operates completely touch free.
Velohub develops smart solutions for urban cyclists. Blinkers is an integral safety system that makes cyclists visible from every angle in every situation, including turning and braking. The front and rear lights attach with a strong magnet and can be recharged conveniently with a USB cable. As the biker brakes, the rear red light gets stronger, just as car lights do. Turning indicator lights not only blink, but flow in the desired direction, improving visibility to those behind. The front light illuminates the road ahead with 250 lumens and also has a blinker. Furthermore, it automatically detects when it’s dark. The control pad is ergonomically designed and easy to use. An added feature is the safety laser perimeter; a green line shines down both left and right of the bike, indicating a safe zone for other vehicles to pass outside of.
Coloured Photovoltaic Facades
The energy turnaround is not just a technical but also a design challenge. Coloured photovoltaic facades provide an added value through architectral design beyond the mainstream look of typical photovoltaic modules. In collaboration with Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts and the Industry, ÜserHuus develops and applies new design appoaches for pilot- and demonstration projects. They combine textile design strategies and PV facades to arrange individual elements over larger areas. The adoption of this approach has led to the development of the first coloured PV module, that can be rotated and arrayed to form a different yet scaleable type of PV facade. In combination with the latest solar technology from Meyer Burger, this PV module achieves a high electrical efficiency, resulting in a maximum energy yield when integrated in buildings. This patent registered system «Rotation» opens up new possibilities for building integrated photovoltaics.