Hydroceramic _hydrogel


by: Akanksha Rathee, Elena Mitrofanova, Pongtida Santayanon

The studio [DMIC] DIGITAL MATTER INTELLIGENT CONSTRUCTIONS in the academic year 2014 at the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalunya aims 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.

The built environment then becomes a living thing as part of nature and not outside of it. We can start defining biological systems as metabolisms that are live processes between the building as an organism and its surroundings. One that reacts with the ecosystem in the form of feedback : learns from its surroundings and gives back. By the precise control of inputs for smart materials a series of properties (mechanical, electrical, optical, magnetic etc.) are exhibited which can be manifested into functionalities like self repairing, shape change, decontamination and transformation of energy.

This project aims to speculate the thermodynamic processes in a building and how these can be tackled passively with a class of materials called “hydrogel”. The term “hydrogel” refers to a class of substances that absorb and retain a large amount of water. Chemically they can be insoluble polymers of hydroxyethyl acrylate, acrylamide, polyethylene oxide, and others.

As a cooling aid they work by exposing the absorbed water to a large surface area. Since the heat of vaporization of water is about 0.6 kilocalories per gram, a cooling effect occurs. Taking this phenomenon as a hypothesis, the project aims at prototyping a custom building element by the hygothermal (humidity and temperature) analysis of a building to meet the habitable conditions required for the comfort zone in a particular context.

We did several tests to examine the chemical and physical properties of the material. After the tests we have determined certain conditions that increase or decrease the absorption and discharge property of the hydrogel.

The hydrogel releases water faster when is exposed to more dry air. Just like the rate of evaporation of water is dependent on the surface area and temperature we found the properties of hydrogel are also dependent on these conditions.

Another point to mention is the reversible nature of the reaction. The hydrogel is never getting used up because the chemical structure is not being destroyed. Given a certain time frame the hydrogel will always go back to its dry state and grow again when in contact with water.

So we created hydroceramic panels. The two main components are clay and hydrogel. we chose clay because of its cooling properties according to its porosity. hydrogel in different densities is placed between two tiles made of clay. the outside layer presents surface arrayed with opened volcanoes to create ventilation and access for water and air to hydrogel. the conical shape gives the specific direction for the growing spheres during the absorption. Then comes layer of fabric that soaks water and works as a liquid transmitter through all the system.

Also it holds the elements keeping it from falling out through its elasticity. The inside layer is a thin clay surface with bumps that gives coolness to the building.

The system can be totally passive collecting the rain water and mist moisture. as well water containers can collect water and enrich tiles when needed through the piping.