3D-printed bricks can cool a room with water

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The 3D-printed cool brick can hold water in its pores, like a sponge (Photo: Emerging Objects)

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We've previously seen designers use the presence of swimming pools or take advantage of prevailing winds to help passively cool homes. But what if every brick used to build a house could cool it down? Design studio Emerging Objects has come out with 3D-printed porous bricks called Cool Bricks that can be filled with water to bring down temperatures.

The bricks utilize the principle of evaporative cooling, where water vapor is added to air to lower the temperature. If you've ever hung a wet cloth in front of the window to cool the breeze flowing in, you've used the same principle.

Each 3D-printed cool brick, has a three dimensional ceramic lattice-like structure that can hold water in its pores, like a sponge. When air flows through the porous brick it absorbs evaporated water vapor, becoming cooler in the process. According to the designers, if all the walls of a home were built with porous, water-logged cool bricks, the air flow through them could bring down the home's internal temperature.

"It's an alternative to air conditioning or an electric swamp cooler," Ronald Rael, one of the designers, tells Gizmag. "It is a much more natural, energy-saving tactic for passive cooling in arid environments."

An Associate Professor, at the University of California, Berkeley, Rael along with co-designer Virginia San Fratello, drew inspiration from the Muscatese evaporative cooling window used in desert climes to humidify and cool dry, hot air. The window makes use of a water-filled ceramic container positioned behind a wooden screen to humidify and cool the air blowing in.

Designed to interlock with each other, the modular bricks can be stacked together and set in mortar to create a wall. Each brick also has a shape that provides a little shade, to help protect the wall's surface from the sun and improve it's performance. The researchers have just begun tests on the prototype to determine its cooling effects, and believe the bricks could be used to cool large rooms, or even prove useful in agricultural applications.

"The water can be applied to the bricks manually or via a pump," Rael tells us. "It could be sprayed on. The amount of cooling would depend on the size of the wall, the amount of water and the airflow (passive or active)."

The cool brick is currently on display at the public exhibition called Data Clay: Digital Strategies for Parsing the Earth at the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design until April 19, 2015.

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