Featured Article 10 Mar 2008

March 10th 2008
Clifford Coonan,
The Irish Times

One of the truly groundbreaking developments for the Games is the National Aquatic Centre, or Water Cube as it is more popularly known, and the basic geometric principle on which the structure is based was developed by two professors at Trinity College Dublin. The building is a giant blue block, based on the geometry of soap bubbles isolated in 1993 by Professor Denis Weaire, head of the Physics Department at Trinity College Dublin, and his research student Robert Phelan.

The shape the two Irish scientists at Trinity came up is the most efficient "ideal" structure for foam, one with the least possible wasted space between individual, identical bubbles.

They were following up on a challenge laid down more than a century earlier by the Belfast-born physicist William Thomson, better known as Lord Kelvin: to divide space into equal volumes, all with a minimum surface area. It's great for dealing with earthquakes, always an issue in Beijing.

The skin of the building is made of a Teflon-like material called ETFE (ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene), which allows the building to breathe like a greenhouse.

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