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Solar Power Blinds Make for Efficient Buildings

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Solar power makes these mini-blinds work, letting in low amounts of sunlight or blocking large amounts of sunlight, helping to regulate building temperature.
Solar power makes these mini-blinds work, letting in low amounts of sunlight or blocking large amounts of sunlight, helping to regulate building temperature.

Solar power is all around us, if you look at things like trees, greenhouses, and cats, but can also be a problem for some of us.

For example, looking at those beautiful glass-façade office buildings, one can’t help but relate how solar power must turn those things into skyscraper-sized greenhouses. While a little sunlight is good, there aren’t too many people who like to work in their office suit sweating bullets over the monthly report. Unless the monthly report is attempting to justify why they spent so much on building climate control, the sweat is probably because of all that extra solar power. In response, building operators need to crank up the air conditioning to counteract the office building greenhouse effect, adding to the running costs of the building and increasing its carbon footprint.

In Germany, some forty percent of energy expenditures are related to building climate control. Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU, Dresden, teamed up with the Department of Textile and Surface Design, at Weissensee School of Art, Berlin, and have developed a solar power fabric shade that can be mounted on, or between, panes of glass.

Each piece of fabric is flower-shaped and ribbed with shape-memory wire, the nickel-titanium alloy’s shape-memory based on temperature. Each “flower” is folded up when cold but, when the sun hits it and warms up the wires, the flowers “open” to block sunlight entering the room. When the sunlight lessens, such as when a cloud passes, the flowers cool off and “close” again, allowing light to enter the room. The solar power design is silent, uses no electrical or electronic components of any kind, and could perhaps be said to be beautiful, a very organic way to control light entering a room.

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