Glass-fronted office buildings are some of the biggest energy consumers, and regulating their temperature is a big job. Now a façade element developed by Fraunhofer researchers and designers for glass fronts is to reduce energy consumption by harnessing solar thermal energy. A demonstrator version will be on display at Hannover Messe.
In Germany, buildings account for almost 40 percent of all energy usage. Heating, cooling and ventilating homes, offices and public spaces is expensive – and offices with huge glass façades are one of the worst offenders in terms of energy wastage.
In the summer, these buildings begin to resemble giant greenhouses that take an enormous amount of effort to cool, while in winter heating requirements shoot up because of insufficient heat insulation for the glass surfaces.
In a bid to cut energy consumption, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU in Dresden have teamed up with the Department of Textile and Surface Design at Weissensee School of Art in Berlin to develop façade components that respond autonomously to sunlight and its thermal energy.
“We don’t need any power since we can rely solely on thermal energy to control the façade element,” says André Bucht, researcher and department head at Fraunhofer IWU. “The challenge in this project was how to bring together innovative technology and design,” adds Prof. Christiane Sauer from the Weissensee School of Art. “Having designers and scientists work together is the key to pioneering concepts for smart building envelopes.”
The demonstrator is based on a concept by design student Bára Finnsdottir, and consists of a matrix of 72 individual fabric components shaped like flowers. Each textile module has shape-memory actuators integrated into it; thin 80-millimeter-long wires of nickel-titanium alloy that remember their original shape when exposed to heat. Should the façade heat up due to the sunlight falling upon it, the wires are activated and noiselessly contract to open the textile components.
The exposed surface of the façade is covered and sunlight can no longer penetrate into the room. As soon as the sun disappears behind a cloud, the components close again so that the façade is transparent once more. The effect is thanks to a special lattice arrangement in the material. “When you bend the wire, it keeps that shape. Then when you expose it to heat, it remembers the shape it had originally and returns to that position. Picture the façade element as a sort of membrane that adapts to weather conditions throughout each day and during the various seasons of the year, providing the ideal amount of shade however strong the sun,” says Bucht.
Designed for large expanses of glass, the sun shield can be attached either on the outer layer of glass or in the space inbetween in the case of multi-layer façades. The innovative structure is easy to retrofit and comes with a range of design options, allowing you to choose the pattern, shape and color of the individual components.
“For instance, you might want to replace the circular design with triangles or a honeycomb arrangement. You can also control the level of sun exposure for individual sections of the façade – just the top left area, for instance. What’s more, the membrane even fits on curved areas of glass. We’ve reached the point where the design has become independent of the shape of the building,” says the researcher. Bucht and his team will be presenting the wealth of design options at Hannover Messe. Visit them in Hall 2, Booth C22 from April 13-17 to see the demonstrator in action. Visitors will be able to actively control the façade using a tablet app specially designed for the purpose.
In the next phase of the project, the researchers want to collaborate with industry partners to develop a range of prototypes for private and office buildings, with the intention of testing them long-term on a detached house and on buildings at the institute. “One priority will be to design fabric elements that are stable enough to withstand any weather,” says Bucht of the work ahead. The plan is to have versions for new builds as well as variants suitable for retrofitting onto existing buildings. The goal is for the systems to be ready for market launch by mid-2017.
But the researchers’ ideas for the façade of the future don’t end there: future plans include climate functions for the façade element, for instance variable heat insulation. “It might be possible to store solar thermal energy and then release it when needed to heat the interior, for instance at night. Another idea is to coat the flower fabric components with malleable, organic solar cells in order to generate electricity that can be used within the building.”
Hendrik Schneider | Fraunhofer Research News
Further reports about: > IWU > energy consumption > fabric > future plans > glass > glass surfaces > greenhouses > heat > innovative technology > nickel-titanium alloy > organic solar cells > reactive > solar cells > solar thermal > sun exposure > sunlight > textile > thermal energy > weather conditions
COMPAMED 2016 connected medical devices and people
23.11.2016 | IVAM Fachverband für Mikrotechnik
Successfully transferring Industrie 4.0 into reality
21.11.2016 | Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, DFKI
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy