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Designer Jack Elliott creates 'green' lamp made of recycled aluminum that uses its own shavings for components

An award-winning pendant lamp built by a Cornell design professor is possibly the first lamp to use its own recycled aluminum waste shavings for components. In doing so, the lamp embodies the "green" principles of reducing, reusing and recycling.

The so-called swarf (the word means fine metallic filings or shavings removed by a cutting tool) lamp, which also represents Cornell's first design patent, was made by Jack Elliott, Cornell associate professor of design and environmental analysis in the College of Human Ecology.

Both the lamp's ceiling mount and base holder are made from recycled aluminum bar stock that, in turn, is 100 percent recyclable, and the diffuser, or shade, is made from the swarf created by the machining.

"I was making another prototype and noticed that while I was machining a part for it, the shavings coming off were beautiful -- they were curly, shiny and reflective," said Elliott, who was New York state's and Cornell's first "green," LEED-accredited (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design by the U.S. Green Building Council) professional academic. "I started experimenting to improve the quality of the waste," he said. He ended up creating a uniform, continuous and flexible strand of swarf that he shaped into loose, ball-shaped masses to diffuse the light from the bulb, which can be either a standard base compact fluorescent or LED bulb.

The lamp, which was a winner in last year's Haute Green international sustainable-design competition, also has a cord made from cross-linked polyethylene, making it polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-free, unlike most cords, which have PVC jackets that could potentially produce dioxin, a suspected human carcinogen if burned. In addition, Elliott designed the lamp for easy disassembly, which makes for easier end-of-life recycling because most of the components are made out of one material.

"Rather than simply reducing the amount of material input for a product, this approach -- which I call 'reduxion' -- reduces the material outputs as well by using the waste from one part for another part of the same product," said Elliott, who teaches a course on ecological literacy and design that is cross listed between the Colleges of Human Ecology and Architecture, Art and Planning.

Elliott is in the process of looking for a North American manufacturer with a tradition of contemporary products with an environmental agenda to produce the lamps on a commercial scale.

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