The Active Thermal Manifold Skin

Dec 01, 2008

The Active Thermal Manifold Skin: Feasibility, Prototyping, and Performance Studies of a Wall System Integrating Distributed Solid State, Solar Powered Cooling and Heating Technology
This project proposes the study of a solid state, solar-powered distributed cooling and heating system for integration in building skins, and the architectural implications of such a system. As opposed to centralized HVAC systems, the project’s subject of examination is a decentralized system of cooling using an array of inexpensive, independently responsive units with collective intelligence. The basis of the proposed cooling system is the application of photovoltaic panels to power thermoelectric cooling modules. Supplied with an electric current, thermoelectric devices transfer heat from one side of the device to another, heating one side while chilling the other. In summary, the proposed system would work as a compact, microprocessor-controlled unit consisting of a thermoelectric module, a photovoltaic panel, exterior heat dissipation plates, and an interior cooling plate with condensate discharge and fan. The innovation of the proposed concept, distinguishing it from past proposals for thermoelectric building cooling, is its potential integration in the building skin as a distributed array of independently functioning units.

Through the construction of a series of prototypes, the feasibility, performance, and architectural implication of these ‘micro-cooling’ systems will be studied. Constructed at full scale and instrumented with monitoring devices, a final functioning prototype will simulate the performance of the proposed system under realistic conditions, while monitoring an identical, unconditioned prototype in parallel. These proposed prototypes intend to both demonstrate the raw technology of the proposal and, using advanced modeling and fabrication methods, explore the design, assembly, and integration of the system’s components in the building envelope.

Michael D. Gibson (Ball State University)
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
The American Institute of Architects

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