The new development is part of Scott Shim, associate professor of design at Ohio State University, and his team’s project to make everyday objects easier to maintain so they last longer and don't end up in a landfill, with the first creation being an easy-to-clean hairbrush.
"We don't want people to have to throw away a perfectly good hairbrush just because it needs to be cleaned," Shim said.
His research revealed that the average lifetime of a hairbrush is six months to a year, and states that this presents a sustainability issue as hair and styling products are clogging up the brushes, meaning that consumers often opt to throw them away.
Along with former graduate student Morris Koo, Shim came up with the ‘MAZE hairbrush’, which features bristles that sit on rows of curving supports and pull apart for easy cleaning.
“I did some market research, and found out how often hairbrushes get thrown out -- not because they're worn out, but because they're disgusting and people didn't maintain them well,” continues Shim.
"Our goal was for the user to easily remove hair from the bristles. We latched on to this idea that brushes usually have a solid surface that gets in the way of cleaning. We decided that the best solution would be to create a brush with an open surface, where the user could actually open it and just grab the hair."
The MAZE hairbrush can be created in one injection-molded piece before the bristles are added, and prototypes are currently crafted one at a time on a 3-D printer, inserting bristles into the body by hand.
The research team are still experimenting with the best manufacturing process and materials to suit mass production, and hope to collaborate with materials scientists on the issue.
The university is looking for licensing partners to commercialise the patented hairbrush in the health and beauty industry.
So far, the brush has won two awards. It placed first in the Beauty, Personal Care and Cosmetic Products Design Category of the A' Design Awards in Italy, and won a Green Product Award from white lobster, a German agency for sustainable innovation.