Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU in Dresden teamed up with the Department of Textile and Surface Design at Weissensee School of Art in Berlin to find a smart solution to this problem.
They created a thermally-reactive blind made up of individual fabric components shaped like flowers, each of which contains an integrated shape-memory actuator made of a nickel-titanium alloy which returns to its original shape when exposed to heat.
When the wires are heated by sunlight they contract to open the textile components, covering the façade and reducing solar gain. When the sun disappears the flowers close and the façade becomes transparent again.
Andre Bucht, researcher and department head at Fraunhofer IW said, “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.”
As the façade uses thermal energy, it doesn’t require an external power source and so is relatively easy to integrate into buildings. It can be attached to external glazing or can be installed in the space in between multi-layer facades. The design is flexible, with different choices of pattern, shape and colour, depending on requirements.
The research team is currently seeking industry partners to develop prototypes that will undergo testing on buildings at the institute, with a view to launching on the market in 2017.
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