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Technology

Engineering the Perfect Coffee Mug 145

Posted by timothy
from the wish-it-was-a-perfect-unblemished-cylinder dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "From the annals of Really Important Science comes word that a research assistant who picked up his B.S. just seven months ago has invented a coffee mug designed to keep java at just the right piping-hot temperature for hours. Logan Maxwell, who got his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from North Carolina State University in May, created the "Temperfect" mug as part of his senior design project for the College of Engineering. Most insulated mugs have two walls separated by a soft vacuum that insulates the temperature of a liquid inside from the temperature of the air outside. Maxwell's design has a third layer of insulation in a third wall wrapped around the inner basin of the mug. Inside is a chemical insulator that is solid at room temperature but melts into a liquid at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The insulator – which Maxwell won't identify but swears is non-toxic – turns to liquid as it absorbs the extra heat of coffee poured into the mug at temperatures higher than 140 F, cooling it to a drinkable temperature quickly. As the heat of the coffee escapes, the insulating material releases heat through the inner wall of the mug to keep it hot as long as possible; a graph mapping the performance of a prototype shows it could keep a cup of coffee at between 128 F and 145 F for as long as 90 minutes. "Phase-change" coffee-mug insulation was patented during the 1960s, but has never been marketed because they are difficult and expensive to manufacture compared to simpler forms of insulation. While working on the Temperfect design, Maxwell met Belgian-born industrial designer Dean Verhoeven, president of consulting form Ancona Research, Inc., who had been working on a similar design and had already worked out how to manufacture a three-walled insulated mug cost effectively. The two co-founded a company called Joevo to manufacture the mugs." According to the Joevo Kickstarter page, you can get one starting at $40. For that much, I'd like a clever lid like this Contigo has.
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Engineering the Perfect Coffee Mug

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  • by stevel (64802) * on Thursday December 12, 2013 @06:18PM (#45675109) Homepage

    This is just the same approach as Coffee Joulies [joulies.com], which is a former Kickstarter project. I have a bunch of these, they work well. No need for a custom mug.

  • Re:Sunk cost (Score:5, Informative)

    by weilawei (897823) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @06:48PM (#45675377) Homepage
    A sunk cost [wikipedia.org] is something you walk away from. That's why it's sunk. It shouldn't influence your future behavior. Continuing to throw money at it is known as "throwing good money after bad".

    In economics and business decision-making, a sunk cost is a retrospective (past) cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. Sunk costs are sometimes contrasted with prospective costs, which are future costs that may be incurred or changed if an action is taken.

    In traditional microeconomic theory, only prospective (future) costs are relevant to an investment decision. Traditional economics proposes that economic actors should not let sunk costs influence their decisions. Doing so would not be rationally assessing a decision exclusively on its own merits.

    Sunk costs should not affect the rational decision-maker's best choice. However, until a decision-maker irreversibly commits resources, the prospective cost is an avoidable future cost and is properly included in any decision-making processes.

    Evidence from behavioral economics suggests this theory fails to predict real-world behavior. Sunk costs do, in fact, influence actors' decisions because humans are prone to loss aversion and framing effects.

  • by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @06:55PM (#45675423)
    It's actually not. All the Joulies do is act like a thermal mass that takes "excess" heat from the coffee to heat them up (cooling the coffee) and then just make the cooldown process slower due to the extra heat capacity provided by the Joulies.

    As noted in the summary and on the Kickstarter page, these mugs use a phase change material to absorb the extra heat and basically play it back as the coffee would otherwise cool.

    Another very common phase change material is ice and the behavior is very similar but in reverse. Ice absorbs heat to melt but does so at a fairly constant temperature (and also dilutes the drink). The drink holds temperature at "around" 32 degrees until the ice melts and then it warms up.

    The mugs use the excess heat to melt the phase change material and then as the coffee/tea cools, the phase change material gives up that heat as it re-solidifies.

    Joulies at room temperature will cool drinks already at perfect temperature even though you might not want them to. The phase change material simply won't melt or won't melt much. While you will still lose some heat to it, presumably the thermal mass is much lower than that of the Joulies. Or hopefully it is. If so, then the phase change material will really only substantially cool drinks above the melting temperature while not cooling drinks below that temperature (with the caveats above).

    Not the same approach at all.
  • by thatseattleguy (897282) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @07:15PM (#45675593) Homepage
    All good, except; gallium is hella expensive. And very very dense, therefore very heavy.
    My money is on good old-fashioned paraffin wax, which (at least in the bulk candle variety that I bought in my hippie candle-making days) melts at exactly 140F.
    Cheap and food-grade (it coats many candy items) and pretty light.
  • by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @07:18PM (#45675621) Homepage

    Any quantity over one is plural, including 1.5 hours. For that matter, while fractions between zero and one are generally written in the singular form (1/2 hour), the equivalent decimal forms are typically plural (0.5 hours). Zero is always plural. Really, the only quantity guaranteed to use the singular form is exactly one.

    That said, you're correct that the quantity-free "hours" would generally imply at least two hours, regardless of the fact that 90 minutes converted to hours would be written with a plural. That's because it doesn't include potential fractions of an hour, only whole numbers.

  • Re:disadvantage... (Score:4, Informative)

    by mythosaz (572040) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @07:47PM (#45675875)

    As others have pointed you - you missed the point.

    It cools to 140, and then holds near 140 for as long as possible, because 140 is the optimal coffee temperature -- or so sayeth the coffee gods.

    That said, I spent a lot of time explaining to people with the "new aluminum beer bottles" that "gets cold faster!" also means "gets warm faster" for all the same reasons.

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