3D Printing

3D-printed bricks can cool a room with water

The 3D-printed cool brick can hold water in its pores, like a sponge (Photo: Emerging Objects)
The 3D-printed cool brick can hold water in its pores, like a sponge (Photo: Emerging Objects)
View 6 Images
The designers were inspired by the Muscatese evaporative cooling window (Diagram: Emerging Objects)
1/6
The designers were inspired by the Muscatese evaporative cooling window (Diagram: Emerging Objects)
Cool bricks utilize the principle of evaporative cooling, where water vapor is added to air to lower its temperature (Image: Emerging Objects)
2/6
Cool bricks utilize the principle of evaporative cooling, where water vapor is added to air to lower its temperature (Image: Emerging Objects)
The 3D-printed cool brick can hold water in its pores, like a sponge (Photo: Emerging Objects)
3/6
The 3D-printed cool brick can hold water in its pores, like a sponge (Photo: Emerging Objects)
When air flows through the porous brick, it absorbs evaporated water vapor and becomes cooler (Photo: Emerging Objects)
4/6
When air flows through the porous brick, it absorbs evaporated water vapor and becomes cooler (Photo: Emerging Objects)
Designed to interlock with each other, the modular bricks can be stacked together to build walls (Photo: Emerging Objects)
5/6
Designed to interlock with each other, the modular bricks can be stacked together to build walls (Photo: Emerging Objects)
When air flows through the porous brick, it absorbs evaporated water vapor and becomes cooler (Photo: Emerging Objects)
6/6
When air flows through the porous brick, it absorbs evaporated water vapor and becomes cooler (Photo: Emerging Objects)

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.

When air flows through the porous brick, it absorbs evaporated water vapor and becomes cooler (Photo: Emerging Objects)
When air flows through the porous brick, it absorbs evaporated water vapor and becomes cooler (Photo: Emerging Objects)

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.

Source: Emerging Objects

16 comments
oldguy
This system would have to be kept very clean. Dont want standing water or black mold in the walls now, do we?
Loving It All
Interesting idea, obviously best sited to warm dry climates. The challenge might be the water usage. In the American Southwest, for example, water is in short supply. How much would be used by this technology, and would this fit with water conservation concerns?
JGTinNJ
Would one have to use distilled water? Otherwise would not unsightly deposits accumulate, and eventually clog the bricks?
Michael Ptak
Luckily there is plenty of water in these arid climates.
Tom Swift
where this would work evaporative cooling A/C units are already in use. Unless deionized water is used minerals will build up just like in evaporative humidifiers. Oldguy is right too, mold will be a problem in as you are maintaining a constantly damp surface.
Artisteroi Rlsh Gadgeteer
why? would filling the bricks with water be cheaper than cooling the home with AC?
Dan Parker
Beat me to it, Oldguy.
Richard Guy
3D printing the 16,000 bricks required to build a 3 bed house? Might take a while
DemonDuck
Have you heard about the drought? http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/
Jim Sadler
This technology would not work in half of Florida as the humidity is nasty here. We cool and remove water vapor from the air in the process. Swamp coolers are inefficient enough to be nonexistent here. The odd ball exception are AC cooling towers for chillers in large buildings like high schools. They use thousands upon thousands of gallons of water and a great deal of electricity to bring water over 90F down to about 80F to cool the chillers which make ice water at about 55 degrees shipped to each area in the building and passed through a coil with a fan to chill the class rooms. Those units are a nightmare to run, maintain and pay for as they are usually poorly designed and often tax payers are on the hook for this junk.