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Brief Published: 11 Jan 2019

Energy-Efficient Innovations for Unpredictable Climates

Seasonal Curtains by Sofie Leenen

Extreme and unpredictable weather is spurring innovations to control temperature and lighting levels in future homes and cities. From flexible products designed for erratic seasons, to cooling colour for hot climates, these three projects piqued our interest.

  • Cooling Colour: Researchers at Berkley Lab in California have been investigating the cooling qualities of the ancient pigment Egyptian blue. Derived from calcium copper silicate, the colour was first manufactured around 2500 BC.

    Previous studies have shown that when placed in sunlight, the pigment emits photons in the near-infrared spectrum (known as fluorescence), which serves to cool surfaces. However, the latest findings indicate that this effect is actually 10 times stronger than previously thought – a significant discovery that extends the range of cooling colours that might be applied to walls and rooftops in hot climates beyond white.

  • Seasonal Interiors: Amsterdam-based designer Sofie Leenen has developed two woven fabric qualities for use as curtains, altering the light to suit changing seasonal needs.

    The semi-transparent summertime curtain, composed of paper yarn and cotton, filters light without obstructing the view. The winter version features a golden yarn on one side that reflects and amplifies ambient light, and brushed mohair on the reverse to create a cocooning feel. This quality helps reduce energy consumption by sealing heat and light within the interior.
  • Solar-Powered De-icing: Researchers at ETH Zurich University have developed a solar-powered nano-coating that could help defrost surfaces – saving time and money, and also limiting the environmental impact of chemical de-icers.

    The icephobic coating is made from gold and titanium oxide. As the concentrated nanoparticle inclusions absorb solar energy, the surface temperature increases by more than 10 degrees, aiding defrosting and inhibiting further frost formation. The coating has been tested on materials like glass and acrylic, making it suitable for use on windows. 

For more innovations geared towards extreme and unpredictable weather conditions, see Adapting to a Changing Climate.