Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Spain have created a prototype called Hydroceramic: a composite material able to lower the temperature of an interior space by five degrees Celsius. Inspired by the sweating human skin, the team sees the modern architecture as an organism, exploring new design possibilities from both material and behavioural perspectives.
Just like the sweat glands in the human body, reducing body temperature by excreting moisture through pores, this project speculates the thermodynamic processes in a building structure.
Hydrogel, a substance that can absorb and contain a huge amount of water, plays a crucial role in this cooling system. This polymer regularly absorbs and releases water without being degraded, and it can keep 400 times its volume in water. The evaporation process of hydrogel is capable of lowering the temperature of its surrounding.
This experiment was executed by sandwiching hydrogel components between a layer of stretching fabric and clay structures. On the one hand, the stretching fabric functions as an artery for water, allowing the transportation between different hydrogel balls. On the other hand, the clay layers works as breathing and supporting elements. When the surrounding temperature increases, the moisture in the hydrogel components is released. Then it is absorbed by the ceramic, creating the cooling effect.
By implanting this composite material into the wall of a building, the research team attempts to provide an alternative for air conditioning, and furthermore to create an autonomous cooling system. Although the prototype successfully decreased the temperature in an interior space during the experiment, it also caused a high humidity as a consequence of water evaporation from hydrogel. in the building, in order to balance the increase in moisture, the team is working on a natural ventilation system.