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Breathing Metals Can Eliminate Excessive Cooling Energy Use

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Photo credit: Some rights reserved by Caliper Studio via Flickr

Many of the current breakthrough approaches in developing temperature control systems now incorporate the concept of a passive system. An economically feasible passive temperature control system would, after all, still almost always end up as the better choice when faced against highly efficient but still active systems.

But while the concept is largely “singular” and simple, ideas of implementing such systems are highly diverse. Some ideas for example, tackle the challenge by manipulating how light is absorbed or reflected. However other ideas may focus on another commonly discussed issue when it comes to temperature control: ventilation. A new idea has been recently revealed that suggests the use of special materials that can dynamically reform themselves to provide ventilation without the need to use energy.

Thermobimetals are composite materials that are capable of curving in depending on the surrounding ambient temperature. It was conceptualized and developed by Doris Kim Sung of the USC School of Architecture, after taking inspiration from the efficient temperature control capabilities of the human skin. The curving action of thermobimetals allows a usually “static” portion of an establishment, a wall for example, to become dynamic and changing. A panel made of thermobimetal tiles for example, can allow air to flow through it when the tiles curve as the temperature rises, as if it’s breathing. It’s a sun-shading device by default that could transform into a vent for hot air when necessary.

The curving action of thermobimetals is explained by the fact that it is made of two separate materials that have different coefficients of expansion. When subjected to heat, the other layer of the material will expand faster, causing the entire tile or plate to curve. As temperatures lower down or go back to normal, it will slowly return again to its original position.

As with many currently researched passive systems, thermobimetals require zero energy to perform its duties. It would simply curve and straighten throughout the day as the sun rises and sets. It would control the overall level of ventilation that your home has, without the need to be monitored and without spending energy.

There are already several prototype thermobimetal installations that serve as testing grounds to observe their actual performance. The latest one, named “Bloom”, is a 20-foot tall structure that is made of 14,000 small thermobimetal sheets. As the day goes by, one would see how each of the sheets curves up and curves down automatically. It is currently installed at the Materials & Applications Gallery at Silver Lake Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Christian Crisostomo
About Christian Crisostomo (265 Posts)

Christian Crisostomo is just your average tech geek that loves to see man's newest and most recent technological exploits. He holds great interest in the potentials of green technology, and is enthusiastic about the continuous development of environment-friendly alternative energy.


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