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Several buildings have ventilation systems based on those found in termite mounds, Zimbabwe

Posted by gmarkets on 22 September, 2007

There are now several buildings that have ventilation systems based on those found in termite mounds, reported The Economist (8/9/07, p. 25). Controlled chimney effect: The Eastgate Centre, a shopping centre and office block in Harare, Zimbabwe, has a mechanical cooling system made up of vents and flues that help hot air out of the structure. “It’s the same principle as the chimney effect, but a bit more controlled,” says Professor George Jeronimidis, director of the Centre for Biomimetics at the University of Reading. As hot air rises and flows out through vents at the top of the building, cooler air was drawn in at ground level.

Adapting idea to flexible materials: Jeronimidis was now taking this concept further by using adaptive materials that flex in response to the level of moisture in the air – an idea borrowed from the way pine-cones open and close. Using cellulose-like fibre composite, he has created a vent that changes from one curved shape to another, depending on the relative levels of moisture inside and outside a building. When warm, moist air builds up inside the building, the vent opens to allow it to escape. But when the air inside was dry, the vent stayed shut and moist air from outdoors was kept out. “In principle, it can be made to respond naturally, without any additional power,” says Jeronimidis.

The Economist, 8/9/2007, p. 25

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