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Directory:Active Building Envelope by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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enlargementActive Building Envelope, by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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Active Building Envelope, by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Active Building Envelope system provides heating and cooling

The ABE system being developed by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute accomplishes the jobs of both cooling and heating, yet operates silently with no moving parts, using a thin-film technology that adheres both solar cells and heat pumps onto surfaces.

Contents

Project Website

Overview

Active Building Envelope (ABE) systems are a new technology for space heating and cooling, which integrate photovoltaic (PV) and thermoelectric (TE) technologies.

In the ABE systems, a PV system is used to transfer solar energy directly into the electrical energy. This electrical energy is subsequently used to power a TE system. Depending on the direction of electrical current applied to the TE system, ABE systems can operate in a heating or cooling mode, and can compensate for thermal losses or gains that occur through a building's envelop or other thermal enclosure.

ABE systems make use of solar energy, a clean and renewable energy resource.

Diagram

Image:Active Building Envelope diagram full 800.jpg
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A schematic representation of the active building envelope (ABE) system highlights the change from the full-size prototype to the smaller, next-generation system.

Credit: RPI, Steven Van Dessel

Video

Image:Vandesselanimation.jpg
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The Active Building Envelope system takes incoming solar radiation and converts the solar energy into electricity to power solid-state, thermoelectric heat pumps. The thin-film technology, still in developmental stages, can both heat and cool an enclosure.

Credit: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Stage of Development

On July 12, 2006, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) researcher Steven Van Dessel and his colleagues announced their most recent progress--including a computer model to help them simulate the climate within their test structure atop the RPI Student Union--at the Solar 2006 Conference in Denver, Colo.

Applications

In addition to climate control in a building, there are other applications of the technology. A thin-film version of the ABE system could see uses in a range of industries, from aerospace--in advanced thermal control systems in future space missions--to the automotive industry, where it could be applied to windshields and sun roofs, giving them the ability to heat or cool a car's interior. It also may be possible to use the ABE system to create packaging materials for thermal control, which could lead to things like self-cooling soda bottles.

Underwriting

The National Science Foundation is supporting the Rensselaer team to determine if a microscale version of the technology will function effectively.

Personnel

According to http://www.rpi.edu/~vandes2/abe.htm

Principal Investigator: Steven Van Dessel
Co- Principal Investigator: Achille Messac
Graduate Students: Xu Xu, Ritesh Khire
Undergraduate Students: C.J. LaMora, Kristin Malone, Bridget MacKean, Luke Ericson

Papers

  • Van Dessel gave a techni7cal presentation July 12, 2006 during the "Energy Efficiency, Renewable, and Green Technologies" session of the Solar 2006 conference, from 2:00-3:30 p.m. He discussed how the ABE system works, and the computational model he's developed to test the system's efficiency. (ISEC2006-99127; Technical; Authors: Steven Van Dessel and Xu Xu; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.)
  • See also http://www.rpi.edu/~vandes2/publications.htm (last updated 2004)

In the News

  • Self-cooling soda bottles? On July 12, 2006, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) researcher Steven Van Dessel and his colleagues will announce their most recent progress--including a computer model to help them simulate the climate within their test structure atop the RPI Student Union--at the Solar 2006 Conference in Denver, Colo. (EurekAlert; July 11, 2006)

Press Release

Adapted from full text, also from nsf.gov, released July 11, 2006

Researchers work to shrink technology that harnesses sun's energy to both heat and cool.

Every day, the sun bathes the planet in energy--free of charge--yet few systems can take advantage of that source for both heating and cooling. Now, researchers are making progress on a thin-film technology that adheres both solar cells and heat pumps onto surfaces, ultimately turning walls, windows, and maybe even soda bottles into climate control systems.

For 4 years, the researchers have been working on their prototype Active Building Envelope (ABE) system. Comprised of solar panels, solid-state, thermoelectric heat pumps and a storage device to provide energy on rainy days (literally), the ABE system accomplishes the jobs of both cooling and heating, yet operates silently with no moving parts.

According to Van Dessel, thin-film advances could potentially lead to functional thermal coatings composed of transparent ABE systems. Such systems might vastly improve the efficiency of temperature-control systems.

"The ease of application would make it possible to seamlessly attach the system to various building surfaces," he added, "possibly rendering conventional air conditioning and heating equipment obsolete."

Additional Resources

Contact

Steven Van Dessel
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
(518) 276-2011
E-Mail: vandes2@rpi.edu

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