Homeostasis-inspired skin, a Biomimetic material.

Homeostasis-inspired skin, a Biomimetic material.

 

HomeostasisBasic issues in Architecture, comprise temperature regulation of spaces and it is even more challenging for glass skyscrapers in high temperatures. Mechanical systems such as A/C, tend to contaminate interior spaces with dust and bacteria if sun is not doing its job as bacteria killer. So how do you control climate changes so this mechanical systems work properly, besides using fins and airgaps? If we think of our bodies as buildings and put ourselves in the middle of the city at 1:00 pm under the sun, our bodies start to sweat, this is the releasing of liquids through our pores to stabilize the system making us drink more water. Same happens in the cold, our bodies have to be covered in order to preserve heat and evade the supercold. This is called Homeostasis, our very own personal thermostat, like every other living organism (although with functional differences).

Now, how is homeostasis applied to buildings besides the regular thermostat in mechanical systems? Architects at Decker Yeadon in New York City, created an interesting product for double skin glass buildings, taking in advantage the air gap provided for these systems and inspired by Homeostasis, the system is inserted within this remanent in reaction to environmental changes.
EAP_conceptAclaimed as Homeostatic system façade, the skin is comprised by a Dialectric Elastomeric Actuator, a combined polymer panel wrapped around an elastomeric coating covered with electrodes side to side. These electrodes are connected to an electric circuit which upon voltage, transform energy into mechanical movement, causing the elastomeric coating to bend to its opposite side creating this interesting effect. It controls sunlight by reflecting and refracting with the silver coating, but the main actuator is the Dialectric Elastomer, also called Electroactive polymers, (EAP).

In result, Architects obtained this beautiful material: A façade with a coral pattern that opens and closes upon environmental changes. As is, this product is revolutionary, and promises to be a great performing curtain for many skyscrapers in the world. I have to say, that chemically, this material reminds me of what NiTinOl, is trying so hard to perform, although the latter does not require electrodes to receive electrical charges and react, it also responds to heat and cold, deforming its surface. But is deformation direction similar on both polymers?

homeostatic-facade

homeostatic-facade-outside

This next video will show you how  EAP performes for a test.

So why do I have to say that this material is actually biomimetic? Critics say and doubt that this product can be part of Biomimicry considerations, but it actually is! At the Biomimicry Institute, you can read all a brief information of how this process is described and I quote:

If we want to consciously emulate nature’s genius, we need to look at nature differently.  In biomimicry, we look at nature as model, measure, and mentor. – Biomimicry Institute

Biomimetic materials according to the parameters in the previous quote, utilizes nature a model, as described, it understands and studies nature’s systems, structures, strategies and forms in order to be sustainably unique. The model for this dissected material is the human body and its homeostasis process; simple and clean. Many materials have innovated and solved many issues in Architecture that cannot be accomplished with traditional materials. And this is why I have a serious passion for innovation and materials science with applications in Architecture, this is why this skin is Biomimetic.

*There is a great DIY Electroactive polymer sample made at IAAC, you should check it out here! It explains exactly the way this material performs, how it deforms and all applications assigned.

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Mabelle Plasencia

Founder and Editor at INmatteria©
• Architect | LEED AP BD+C, with an intense passion for materiality, innovation, technology and science. • Arquitecta | LEED AP BD+C apasionada por la materialidad, innovación, tecnología y ciencia.