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17 amazing things made out of paper (pictures)

From architecture to batteries to solar tech, regular ol' paper is being used in some of the most mind-blowing tech around. Here's a look at some of the coolest things being constructed with the humble material.

Leslie Gornstein
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1 of 17 Patrick Gilloly/MIT

This printable solar cell

It's made of, yes, paper. Clip a few wires to it, shine a light on it, and the thing puts out enough energy to power an LCD clock display. You may thank the geniuses at MIT, natch.


Keep clicking for more amazing things made of paper, including—spoiler alert!—the new CNET magazine.

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2 of 17 Charles McQuillan

This room that performs

Swiss artist Zimoun creates acoustic art installations using little more than DC motors, cotton balls and cardboard boxes. When a visitor walks into one of Zimoun’s creations, sensors engage the motors, which cause the balls to bounce, wiggle or vibrate. Here, Ana Matronic stands inside one such installation, which has 186 motors.

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3 of 17 Taken for Granite

This "snow queen" holiday dress

Yep, it was made almost entirely of paper, created by Michele Ward and Marcia McGowan at the Taken for Granite boutique in Stony Creek, Conn.

Get a copy of CNET Magazine, and keep clicking for more amazing things made of paper.

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4 of 17 ASAHI SHIMBUN/AFP/Getty Images

This huge paper airplane

Back in 1995, some brave souls in Tokorozawa, Japan, gathered to launch this 50-pound-plus paper airplane inside of a gym. Its 45-foot wingspan took it almost 40 meters before it landed.

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5 of 17 Christa Renee/Getty Images

Splinter-free toilet paper

Because before the 1930s, toilet paper used to have splinters in it, and therefore cats had nothing to play with, and some toddlers had nothing to wear. It's not clear why splinters made their way into toilet paper before the Great Depression, but we’re glad they're gone.

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6 of 17 Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

This cardboard church

Shigeru Ban designed this temporary cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand after an earthquake devastated the original, basalt-hewn building in 2011. Number of tubes made from cardboard tubes, timber and steel: 86. Cost of Ban’s design: Free.

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7 of 17 Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

This adorably massive pinata

It's not just a 46-foot tall pinata. It’s a 46-foot-tall pinata shaped like an orange M&M that also is spilling thousands of M&Ms above Cee-Lo Green, who is dressed like an orange M&M. Also, when it debuted in 2011, this American treasure broke a new Guinness World Record for...world’s largest pinata.

Get a copy of CNET Magazine, and keep clicking for more amazing things made of paper.

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8 of 17 MICHEL GANGNE/AFP/Getty Images

This amazing temporary bridge

Also by architect Shigeru Ban, this time in France. To complement the nearby Pont du Gard, he created a 7.5-ton structure comprising 281 of his 4-inch-diameter cardboard tubes. Incredibly, the thing could hold a load of up to 20 people.

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9 of 17 Pleats Please Issey Miyake Fall/Winter 2014

Anything by Issey Miyake

The amazing fashion designer is known for his paper-inspired, hyper-pleated designs. Small folds that look like rain, megafolds that harken to accordions—he’s done it all. Even his creation process involves paper: He places his garments between paper sheets and then feeds them through a heated press to create all those amazing pleats.

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10 of 17 Dreamtime Design

This ridiculously cool bar

Designed by Dream Time Design in Australia, this temporary night spot was created for a one-time industry event in 2009. The focal point: Its more-than-10-foot "outer shell," with a support structure made of cardboard tubes.

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11 of 17 ASU

This foldable paper lithium-ion battery

Yes, really. Specifically, the Arizona State scientist who came up with this started off with a KimWipe, a porous lint-free paper towel. They then added layers of carbon nanotubes to provide electrical conductivity, folded the paper into a stack of 25 layers, and a battery was born.

Get a copy of CNET Magazine, and keep clicking for more amazing things made of paper.

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12 of 17 PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

This billionaire

Hong Kong’s Cheung Yan has made so much money turning waste paper into cardboard that she has a nickname: China’s Queen of Trash.

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13 of 17 Alex Wang

This disease-fighting paper

This origami-inspired, folded wonder absorbs a drop of a bodily fluid. Once the fluid penetrates all the folds, a doctor can open it up and see a panel of possible diagnoses or telltale chemicals. It’s the brainchild of chemists at the University of Texas at Austin.

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14 of 17 Christophe Guberan

This self-folding paper

OK, so, technically, the real innovation here comes from the ink-water blend that designer Christophe Guberan came up with. Replace ordinary printer ink with that blend, print out a pattern and watch the paper fold into intriguing shapes as it dries.

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15 of 17

This crime-fighting paper

Bike thefts in Boston dropped 67 percent last year after law enforcement put up scarecrow-like cutouts of a local transit officer near a set of bike racks. It’s certainly cheaper than paying a real law enforcer. The nickname for the cardboard officer? Scare-Cop.

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16 of 17 PEGA D&E

This computer shell

The Taipei-based firm PEGA D&E has created a paper-based shell for laptops called Paper PP Alloy. It’s recyclable, natch, but even more interestingly, it can be shaped using traditional injection molding methods, meaning that manufacturers wouldn’t have to overhaul their processes just to do the environment a solid.

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17 of 17

CNET Magazine

And, of course, magazines in general. Since the 1600s, literate types have turned to the periodical for education, enlightenment...or even just personality quizzes. And now, the best in tech trends, tips and interviews.

There’s a reason why American magazines still rake in an estimated $14 billion every year: They balance a thirst for knowledge with a craving for, well, just plain fun.


Get a copy of CNET Magazine, and we'll keep finding more amazing things.

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