By Evan Ackerman
It may not look like much, but physicists from the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany have invented the “perfect” coffee cup. Why “perfect?” It’s all about the temperature: this coffee cup is capable of maintaining your coffee (or any other beverage) at an ideal temperature for a full 20 – 30 minutes. The ideal temperature for coffee, incidentally, is 58 degrees Celsius, but personally I prefer to drink tea (not coffee, tea, thank you) at something closer to 59… Yeah, I like living dangerously.
The cup is constructed of a swirly looking aluminum frame covered with a ceramic material. The spaces around the frame are filled with a PCM, or phase changing material. PCM is super neat stuff that is only happy at a very specific temperature. When you add heat to a PCM, it absorbs it and turns into a liquid, kinda like wax. If things start to cool down, the PCM turns back into a solid, releasing the heat as it does so, doing its best to keep itself (and its surroundings) as close to that happy temperature as possible. So when it comes to coffee, the PCM will first cool the liquid down to the ideal temperature by absorbing heat, and then keep it at that temperature as it releases that heat. Best part is, it’s totally free, in that it’s “powered” by absorbing heat from something that’s too hot. And hey, did I mention that it also works in reverse? A different type of PCM can be used to stabilize cold liquids, too.
The only catch to this technology is that PCMs are temperature specific. So, you’d need a hot PCM cup for hot beverages and a cold PCM cup for cold beverages. And they’re not likely to be cheap:
In the meantime, it won’t be long before the IBP’s new table products arrive in stores. Their steep price tags should easily give them away. “We don’t know how expensive they’ll be yet,” Sedlbauer says. “We are already talking with different companies. If we can find a partner to work together with, the first mugs could already be on sale by the end of the year.”
I’d imagine that a steep price tag wouldn’t dissuade that many people from a coffee cup that keeps your coffee at the perfect temperature… I mean, you only really need one, right? And if you drink coffee (or tea, which is way better) every day, it’ll easily pay for itself in convenience. As long as they dress it up a little bit first, of course.