A system inspired by the biomechanics of insect-trapping plants aims to provide energy savings by altering building façades to adapt to changing sunlight throughout the day. With buildings accounting for nearly 40% of U.S. energy consumption, new energy-efficient technologies are in high demand. The system in development by Sigrid Adriaenssens, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Victor Charpentier, a postdoctoral researcher, would maximize occupant comfort and save operational building energy while maintaining a constant level of interior daylight.
The basis of the technology consists of flexible plastic sheets actuated by shape-memory alloy wires that contract in response to an electrical current. When current is applied, the wires deform the plastic sheet so that it lifts and rotates. On the outside of a glass building, these sheets would be oriented to follow the sun, providing optimal light and shade conditions inside. Additionally, the system is cost-effective compared to competing solutions, since it does not require expensive materials, mechanical hinges or motors.
Collaborators: Forrest Meggers, assistant professor of architecture and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment; Olivier Baverel, professor of architecture at École des Ponts ParisTech
Development status: Patent protection is pending. Princeton is seeking outside interest for the further development of this opportunity.
Funding: National Science Foundation