Let’s just make up technology!

When I was a wee industrial design student, I remember classmates coming to me, asking if some idea they had in mind would be feasible. Why did they ask me? Because I already had a degree in physics, and had hundreds of credit hours of engineering classes [mostly EE, electrical engineering] under my belt. If for some reason, I didn’t know if a proposed idea would work, I’d say, “Let’s research!” and we would try to look up scientific articles/papers/posts online. I’ve always felt that I’d make a good scientific paper “translator”, as I’m good at reading through all the jargon and equations to get to the nitty gritty of the paper, and explain it to those who may not be well-versed in Greek letters and calculus symbols.

Refresh by James Skeggs

This is the Refresh, designed by James Skeggs. And as you can see from the graphics on the product render, this was a product entered in the infamously flawesome Electrolux Design Lab competition. The Refresh is a portable device that instantly chills bottled drinks…and puts out an awesome mist/fog to impress your friends! How does it chill bottles so quickly? That’s what I’d like to know.

Refresh description

When applied, an electric current will cause internal semiconductor nodes to instantly freeze.

What the hell does that mean?? Where are these “internal semiconductor nodes”? Does the designer even know what “internal semiconductor nodes” are? Here’s a nice, possibly boring, article about reducing the size of semiconductor devices, where they talk about the ever shrinking node sizes. Node sizes these days are on the order of tens of nanometers. It’s hard to imagine what a nanometer is, because we usually don’t work with things that small in life. To put it in perspective, let’s say a semiconductor node is 50 nanometers. I would be able to place 2,000 “nodes”, end to end, in the diameter of a human hair. That is how small a semiconductor node is. Why did I bring this up? Because stating “internal semiconductor nodes” will instantly “freeze” makes no sense whatsoever. None. It’s a load of jargon that means nothing, and has nothing to do with the way this device could work.

Also, this device is made of stainless steel and blue-colored glass. I don’t see any place for “internal semiconductor nodes”, not to mention printed circuit boards, or  more importantly, the battery that powers this thing, since it is portable.

After beverage is cooled, Refresh will convert excess energy back into its rechargeable battery.

Oh, well that makes sense. What excess energy? Is he talking about heat? How is it gathering heat, to charge its battery? Like I said, I’m not sure where “instantly cooled internal semiconductor nodes” came from. I want to say that it sounds like he’s basing his technology on the thermoelectric effect and Peltier devices. A Peltier device creates a temperature differential when a current is applied. So you hook up the device to a current source, and one side of the device gets cold, and one side gets hot. Let’s say that the Refresh has some really super efficient, super small Peltier devices in it. The battery provides a current, and the inside of the Refresh cools rapidly, while the outside dissipates heat. That’s actually plausible. But then we have that second quote above. How is it converting excess energy back into electricity, to charge the battery? Where is this excess energy? Is he talking about heat that was just expelled? How is he gathering that heat? I could go on and on, but it’s hurting my head.

Having a device that cools bottles of wine instantly would be really cool, pun intended. Do you know what else would be cool? If my phone could teleport me to anywhere in the world. You know what? I think I’ll design a smart phone teleporter for myself. How will it work? Using a large scale quantum teleportation base unit which utilizes flexible, transparent circuitry, controlled via a smart phone interface. Totally sounds real, right? Well, it’s not. I just made that up. Just because I can give you jargon details about something, doesn’t make it real, or even plausible. I have no problem with “looking into the future”, and thinking how technology could evolve, and thinking of how that technology could be applied to future products. But it’s irresponsible for designers to find some technology buzzwords, then use them as the basis for a design. This is why those outside the field of product and industrial design, especially engineers, think designers have no credibility at all. Designers need to understand: flawesome ideas like this are a disservice to the field of industrial design.