UEDLAB wins NSF in Environmental Sustainability:

Yale Project Aims to Propel Green Walls into the Mainstream

Yale researchers have received a $299,000 federal grant to develop a new class of “green wall” technologies that they say could ultimately replace the cooling towers used for a wide range of processes, from utility-scale power operations to home-cooling systems.

A team of Yale researchers has received National Science Foundation funding to develop a new class of “green wall” technologies capable of rejecting waste heat for a range of processes — from utility-scale power operations to home-cooling systems — a potentially valuable green infrastructure alternative to the cooling towers that have become ubiquitous worldwide.
During a three-year study, the team will test and evaluate green wall prototypes that incorporate a “heat rejection” function — a process in which cooler water is used to extract waste heat from water streams in built systems — while still achieving the benefits associated with typical green wall systems.
Green walls, which are also known as living walls, are vegetation-covered walls located on the exterior of buildings that can improve the energy performance and water management of the structure, reduce the urban heat island effect, and provide other valuable ecosystem services.
Yet despite their practical and ecological benefits, the high implementation and maintenance costs have made green wall technologies something of a niche product, said Alexander Felson, co-principal investigator of the project and assistant professor at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and the Yale School of Architecture.
If you can incorporate active heat rejection into green walls… it’s possible that we can expand the clientele to include any industry, institution, or even homeowners.
— Alexander Felson
A green wall that can also perform the function of heat rejection has the potential to complement or replace cooling towers, which typically achieve that task for systems of all sizes across the industrial and urban landscape. The technology, researchers say, could become an attractive option for large-scale utility customers, big box department stores, and urban buildings. It might also bring the efficiency benefits of wet heat rejection to smaller building cooling systems.
“There is real potential to expand green wall technologies into a whole new set of markets,” Felson said. “If you can incorporate active heat rejection into green walls — and illustrate the ecosystem service benefits — it’s possible that we can expand the clientele to include any industry, institution, or even homeowners.”
Like cooling towers, the green walls would perform heat rejection through evaporation and convection. And for both technologies the water used to extract waste heat is lost to the atmosphere. However, green walls would utilize the re-circulated water for several additional functions, such as maintaining plants and soil organisms, graywater management for buildings, and microclimate moderation, researchers say.
In addition, the green wall systems would not produce “blow-down” water, which is high-mineral wastewater contaminated with the biocides and corrosive inhibitors used in cooling tower operations.
A key challenge will be identifying plant and substrate combinations that support heat rejection while allowing plants to perform in higher water temperatures and with wetter roots.
During the project, the researchers will conduct greenhouse and field studies to test heat rejection, water treatment, and plant and substrate performance alongside mathematicalmodelsto calibrate and/or validate the results.
Felson worked closely with co-principal investigator James Axley, a Senior Research Scholar at F&ES and Professor Emeritus at the Yale School of Architecture, to develop the thermal green wall concepts. Together they have two provisional patents for the technology. A third investigator, Graeme Berlyn, the E.H. Harriman Professor of Forest Management and Physiology of Trees at F&ES, will focus on the plant physiology and substrates.
The researchers are working with EcoWalls, LLC. a nationally recognized design-build company with greenhouse facilities that has produced numerous advancesin green wall plants, irrigation, and substrates.
The $299,000 grant is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Environmental Sustainability program.

– Kevin Dennehy    kevin.dennehy@yale.edu    203 436-4842


Squishy Robots

"A new phase-changing material built from wax and foam developed by researchers at MIT is capable of switching between hard and soft states."

MIT researchers are trying to change the paradigm of your typical robot by mimicking organic substances. The idea is that the robot should be soft to conform to a particular environment, and interact with humans, though rigid enough to actually do a procedure. They can achieve this by applying heat at particular points to deform the object, then applying coolness to make the object rigid again. 

"Robots built from this material would be able to operate more like biological systems with applications ranging from difficult search and rescue operations, squeezing through rubble looking for survivors, to deformable surgical robots that could move through the body to reach a particular point without damaging any of the organs or vessels along the way."

via zerostatereflex


Lower Venice Island nears completion…looking forward to an official opening…


Shoemaker has handled 3” of rain quite well from the remnants of Hurricane Andrea so far. Our monitoring equipment is hard at work and we hope to release preliminary data soon!

I was thoroughly entertained I must say


The Greatest Spelling Bee Troll Ever (by Intensedarekdrk)


Camouflaged utility structures in the streetscape


Camouflaged utility structures in the streetscape


Windswept by Charles Sowers 

Art installation fixed outside a gallery’s wall, displaying natural flow and turbulence of the wind - via dezeen:

Hundreds of spinning blades reveal the invisible patterns of the wind in American artist Charles Sowers’ kinetic installation on the facade of the Randall Museum in San Francisco.

The installation, titled Windswept, consists of 612 rotating aluminium weather vanes mounted on an outside wall. As gusts of wind hit the wall, the aluminium blades spin not as one but independently, indicating the localised flow of the wind and the way it interacts with the building.

“Our ordinary experience of wind is as a solitary sample point of a very large invisible phenomenon,” said Sowers. “Windswept is a kind of large sensor array that samples the wind at its point of interaction with the Randall Museum building and reveals the complexity and structure of that interaction.”

You can find out more at Dezeen here, with photos and a video of the work in action.