Made in the Shade

A Metropolis Next Gen alum develops a working prototype for her energy-efficient shape-memory sunscreen.

Above: the SmartScreen’s shape-memory strands at different stages of transformation

Last week’s unseasonable temperature spike on the East Coast found many of us scrambling to get out of the 100-degree sun. So it seems appropriate that we just got word from Martina Decker, one of our Next Gen alums, about new developments with her SmartScreen shading system. Her design could potentially have a profound impact on the amount of energy resources our buildings consume.

The amount of power required to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature is no small load, and architects have taken note. The SmartScreen design, first presented by Decker in Metropolis’s 2007 Next Generation Design Competition, is a thermo-responsive surface that monitors heat transfer without using any energy. Unlike mechanical solar screens—such as Jean Nouvel’s system at L’Institut du Monde Arabe, in Paris— Decker’s model uses no motors, processors, or electricity. She replaced mechanical parts with shape-memory strands, a material that responds to changes in temperature. The strands expand when the temperature rises, trapping heat, and shrink when the temperature falls, admitting natural light to warm the room. Best of all, you don’t need an electrician to install it.

Decker now has a working prototype of the screen—you can check out a short video of it being tested by clicking here.

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