Editorial Feature

Thermobimetal Smart Materials in Buildings

Innovative technologies and materials are increasingly being utilized in buildings, revolutionizing the construction sector. Amongst the various emerging materials in the industry, thermobimetal has sparked discussion in recent years. This article will explore this smart material.

Thermobimetal Smart Materials,Thermobimetals

Image Credit: JU.STOCKER/Shutterstock.com

What is Thermobimetal?

Thermobimetal is a unique and remarkable composite material that was initially designed as a smart, energy-efficient automatic shading system. It is comprised of two or more materials, which are usually metallic (such as steel and copper), and possesses fundamental properties that give it intriguing possibilities for a variety of building applications.

This material exhibits distinctive behavior when exposed to changes in temperature, causing it to react. This is due to the different materials in thermobimetal’s composite structure possessing different expansivities. One of the materials expands faster than the other, creating a mechanical effect.

When subjected to elevated temperatures, the material bends or curls, and when it cools down, it returns to a flat position. How much it curls or bends depends on the difference in the composite materials’ thermal coefficients. This remarkable behavior makes thermobimetal an ideal candidate for applications where energy efficiency and thermal management are crucial.

Applications of Thermobimetal

Whilst the application potential of this emerging material is still fairly limited, thermobimetal has a number of key advantages that make it an ideal candidate for construction applications. It is cost-effective, sustainable, low maintenance, and provides dynamic possibilities for elevated comfort for residents.

As mentioned above, this material was initially developed as a dynamic, energy-efficient shading system. One of the groundbreaking potential applications for this remarkable technology expands on its original function: solar-powered shading.

Architects can use thermobimetal to create dynamic, passive shading systems that keep glare to a minimum and provide comfortable internal building temperatures. Embedding this material in double-glazed windows reduces the need for energy-intensive cooling systems and negates the need for manual and motorized controls, which traditional blinds and other shading technologies rely on.

Natural ventilation systems can also make use of thermobimetal, offering an innovative alternative to conventional systems, which make heavy use of ducts and fans. These conventional systems are also extremely energy-intensive.

By integrating panels constructed of thermobimetal into facades, air flow and ventilation can be improved at a fraction of the cost and energy. When temperature increases, the material curls, promoting natural air flow, and when it cools down, the building façade is closed, blocking airflow.

Another key construction challenge that thermobimetal solves is improving the energy efficiency of high-rise buildings, which heavily rely on mechanical and automated systems for shading and ventilation. However, during situations such as power outages, high-rises, and residents can encounter serious issues.

By facilitating passive cooling, shading, ventilation, and temperature control, thermobimetal elements installed in high-rise buildings promote sustainability and enhance resilience.

Some Notable Projects Using Thermobimetal

Thermobimetal has been utilized in some notable projects in recent years, showcasing its potential benefits for the construction sector and building residents.

In 2019, USC architect Doris Sung developed a decorative shutter termed InVertTM, which incorporates thermobimetal to create a zero-energy shading system for buildings. In this system, individual thermobimetal elements “invert” and block sunlight, providing passive cooling and shade.

Invert is installed within a double-glazed window’s cavity and, whilst it does block some light, this is similar to the level blocked by fritted glass. In fact, Sung says that a “truer” view is facilitated as a typical office building requires protective coatings on windows, meaning that looking out of them is akin to wearing shades.

Bloom was another project in 2012 from Sung that showcased the potential for this innovative material. A pavilion comprised of 414 tiles utilizing 14,000 thermobimetal pieces, this zero energy façade combined material innovation, design, and computational form to demonstrate the benefits of thermobimetal for construction.

Future Directions for Thermobimetal

Several areas of interest have emerged in recent years as this innovative material gains traction in the construction industry. This has led to some potentially game-changing potentials for thermobimetal.

Firstly, researchers are experimenting with new combinations of materials such as metals and alloys to enhance the thermal properties and behavior of thermobimetal. This can potentially expand the range of applications for this material and optimize performance, leading to even more durability and responsiveness.

Additionally, integrating thermobimetal with smart building management systems can take advantage of the benefits of both of these emerging technologies within the construction sector. By promoting the synergy between thermobimetal’s passive thermal responsiveness and smart sensors and automation, future building management systems will be more energy-efficient and dynamic.

Moreover, this emerging material can play a key role in sustainable construction practices in the future. The sector is increasingly looking to improve energy efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint, and the use of new technologies and materials is key to meeting its sustainability goals and reducing the industry’s environmental impact.

Whilst still an emerging material within the construction industry, the benefits of thermobimetal make it an intriguing research target for architects and building engineers.

More from AZoBuild: New Technology Leveraged to Paint Buildings

References and Further Reading 

Ezra (2023) Thermobimetal: How it works, Applications, Advantages in constructions [online] build-construct.com. Available at:

https://build-construct.com/building/building-material/thermobimetal/

Evolo (2012) Metal that Breathes: Bloom Installation Made with 14000 Thermobimetal Pieces [online] evolo.us. Available at:

https://www.evolo.us/metal-that-breathes-bloom-installation-made-with-14000-thermonimetal-pieces/

Aouf, R.S (2019) Thermobimetal shutters by Doris Sung self-regulate the temperature of buildings [online] Dezeen. Available at:

https://www.dezeen.com/2019/04/19/doris-sung-invert-thermobimetal-shutters

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Reginald Davey

Written by

Reginald Davey

Reg Davey is a freelance copywriter and editor based in Nottingham in the United Kingdom. Writing for AZoNetwork represents the coming together of various interests and fields he has been interested and involved in over the years, including Microbiology, Biomedical Sciences, and Environmental Science.

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