IAAC students create hydroceramic: a passive cooling system for buildings
IAAC students create hydroceramic: a passive cooling system for buildings
sep 18, 2014

IAAC students create hydroceramic: a passive cooling system for buildings

IAAC students create hydroceramic: a passive cooling system for buildings
all images courtesy of digital matter intelligent constructions studio




the increasing development and application of ‘smart’ materials in various industries has opened up new design possibilities at the material and behavioral scale of architecture. the DMIC at the institute of advanced architecture of catalonia aimed to redefine and embed ‘intelligence’ into the built environment by the use of responsive materials, designing and implementing systems to aid the building performance by digital simulations and fabrication.


video courtesy of digital matter intelligent constructions studio




the architectural atmosphere then becomes a living thing as part of nature and not outside of it. its components start working as organisms with biological systems that are live operations between the structure its surroundings. this project speculates the thermodynamic processes in a building, and how these can be tackled passively with a class of materials called ‘hydrogel’. the term refers to a class of substances that absorb and retain 500 times their weight in water.

iaac dmic hydroceramic passive cooling system
growth of the spherical hydrogel according to the water absorption




chemically, they can be insoluble polymers of hydroxyethyl acrylate, acrylamide, polyethylene oxide, and others. as a cooling aid, they work by exposing the ingested water to a large surface area. since the heat of vaporization of water is approximately 0.6 kilocalories per gram, a decrease in temperature occurs. taking this phenomenon as a hypothesis, the studio has been prototyping a custom building element by the hygothermal (humidity and temperature) analysis of architectures to meet the habitable conditions required for the comfort zone in a particular context.

iaac dmic hydroceramic passive cooling system
diagram of the hydrogel under the effects of evaporation





the final version, ‘hydroceramic’, works as an evaporative cooling device which reduces warmth and increases the humidity, thus lowering the air of the indoor environment by five to six degrees. its embedded intelligence makes its performance directly proportional to the heat in the outdoor wind. in other words, when it is hotter outside, the interior responds by naturally decreasing its temperature. meanwhile, when evaporation isn’t occurring, the system doesn’t cool the enclosed space.

iaac dmic hydroceramic passive cooling system
Hydroceramic can be customized in different shapes and variations of hydrogel containers.




these results were determined by an experiment set up to test the effect of hydrogel and to establish what the best material is to house the substance. clay, aluminum, and acrylic were tested against a controlled variable, which helped determine that the porous nature of clay makes it the most efficient tool. the students believe that the project can help save up to 28% of overall electricity consumption caused by the traditional air-conditioning and can be used as an low-cost alternative building technology as both clay and hydrogel are inexpensive.

iaac dmic hydroceramic passive cooling system
testing the materials

 iaac dmic hydroceramic passive cooling system
(left) final system consisting of the clay layers with hydrogel and stretching fabric in between
(right) fabrication method using CNC milling for the moulds

iaac dmic hydroceramic passive cooling system
sample with the curvature

iaac dmic hydroceramic passive cooling system
final test of humidity and temperature in the artificially created environment

iaac dmic hydroceramic passive cooling system
the best result came from the composite clay



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here. 

  • Amazing project and research! And how long is a ceramic/clay shell is possible to stand humidity, with no impact on its construction?

    Daria says:

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