Barcelona’s IAAC architecture school recently undertook a project to develop a prototype material – a product they call hydroceramics – that passively cools buildings and can reduce the internal temperature by as much as 5°C compared to the outside level.
Hydroceramic is a project that speculates on the thermodynamic processes in buildings and how these can be tackled passively with a class of materials called “hydrogel”. By combining the evaporation property of the hydrogels with the thermal mass, and humidity control property of clay ceramic and fabric, a composite material responsive to heat and water was created. The proposed solution is a passive evapotranspiration system able to lower the temperature of an interior space by 5ºC.
Hydroceramics is a façade system made of clay panels and hydrogel able to cool a building space up to 5 degrees. Hydrogel capsules have a capacity to absorb up to 500 times their own volume in water in order to create a construction system that can “breath” through evaporation and perspiration.
The project is divided into 3 different phases, The smart material: Hydrogel, The supportive material: Fabric as the water channel, and the ceramic.
The heat of vaporisation of water is about 0.6 kilocalories per gram, this is how the cooling effect occurs. Taking this phenomenon as a hypothesis, a test was set up to observe the cooling performance of this smart material in composition with other selected materials i.e plastic, aluminium and clay, in order to find the most suitable support material.
The performative box compared to the control after treated with extreme heat (artificial), resulted in a 5-degree Celsius difference in temperature (average) and 200 higher in humidity. This gave a rough conclusion that the composite material has the ability to cool down the enclosed space in high temperature and the ability to transfer humidity. The project objectives have been answered in the research area, and as far as necessary, with limited time and technology, the team achieved a promising test result which could lead to several further types of research and also profitable projects. Having in mind that the composite material has a very low production cost and natural resources of clay are still abundant, the system can easily be applied to architecture in the remote areas.
With the help of accurate energy and thermal analysis of today’s technology, the hydroceramics passive system can effectively keep the balance of the humidity and temperature inside the human comfort zone.
Source: Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia