University engineering professor Ben Hatton and his colleagues describe a new process to reduce heat loss during the winter and to keep buildings cool in the summer time in their article Solar Energy Materials & Solar Cells.
Hatton noticed that living organisms have evolved into very efficient mechanisms to control temperature by using internal vascular networks. Blood flow close to the skin surface increases when blood vessels dilate, thereby increasing convective heat transfer. Conversely, the blood vessels constrict and limit blood flow when skin is exposed to cold temperatures.
By applying what they learned from this observation in nature, the engineers obtained results that demonstrated an artificial vascular network within a transparent layer that was comprised of channels on the micrometer to millimeter scale and extended over the surface of a window. This gives an extra and inventive cooling mechanism for building windows and a new thermal control tool for building design.
Since windows account for approximately 40% of building energy costs, the engineers decided to get creative in their attempt to find a way to lower costs and increase efficiency.
Hatton and his team believe this technology may be applied to solar panels to increase their efficiency.