We already know that geeks and scientists don't just live on coffee, they love it. We've reported on genetically engineered Java beans, sophisticated coffee purity sensors, even laser-heating the drink and now they've built the ultimate container: a space-age mug which maintains it at the perfect temperature.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics has constructed the ultimate cup, and you'd be forgiven for thinking the following description is for part of the GI Joe Accelerator suits: A honeycomb of highly conductive aluminium ribbons holds a specially-tuned Phase Change Material in place, the PCM specially selected for the current mission. The mission is "coffee". This advanced core is surrounded by porcelain, presumably so the secret-agent container can blend in with civilian mugs.
PCM technology is nothing new and already used in building material and even ski jackets - the cool thing here is applying it to a new problem. The key is phase changes. It takes energy to change material from solid to liquid, or liquid to gas - this is how ice cools your drink down, with heat flowing from the beverage to change the ice's state to water. PCMs work the same way but are reversible and reusable: pour in a drink that's too hot and the PCM inside the mug will melt, cooling the drink, but as the drink cools further the PCM will resolidify and give the excess heat back to the drink.
The scientists responsible are aiming at the mass market, so we hope to see ultra-mugs to start appearing in stores like ThinkGeek in the next few years. They still need to find a production partner, but the only safer online market than "nerds who love coffee" is porn.
Posted by Luke McKinney
Temperature-Regulating Coffee Mug http://www.spiegel.de/
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